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Court Rejects County’s Challenge; Upholds Medical Marijuana Identification Program

  • by Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel August 1, 2008

    The California Court of Appeals, Fourth District, ruled yesterday that the state law requiring counties to issue identification cards to authorized medical marijuana patients is constitutional and must be implemented by the counties.

    The suit had been brought by the County of San Diego against San Diego NORML and the state of California, alleging the provisions included in SB 420, adopted by the legislature in 2003, were preempted by federal law and were therefore unconstitutional. San Diego NORML had been named as a defendant, because they had publicly threatened to sue the county if they refused to implement the patient identification cards.

    In a unanimous 39-page decision issued by Justice Alex McDonald, the three-judge panel undertook a thorough analysis of the legal doctrine of federal preemption, finding SB 420 was not in direct conflict with federal law, and rejected the county’s challenge.

    The court found that a local government entity “charged with the ministerial duty of enforcing a statute generally does not have the authority, in the absence of a judicial determination of unconstitutionality, to refuse to enforce the statute on the basis of the (entity’s) view that it is unconstitutional.”

    The court continued, “We conclude the identification card laws do not pose a significant impediment to specific federal objectives embodied in the CSA. The purpose of the CSA is to combat recreational drug use, not to regulate a state’s medical practices. The identification card laws merely provide a mechanism allowing qualified California citizens, if they so elect, to obtain a form of identification that informs state law enforcement officers and others that they are medically exempted from the state’s criminal sanctions for marijuana possession and use. ”

    The court further ruled, “Congress does not have the authority to compel the states to direct their law enforcement personnel to enforce federal laws.”

    San Diego NORML is represented in this matter by Adam B. Wolfe, Esq., staff counsel with the ACLU Drug Law Reform Project out of Santa Cruz, CA.

    12 Responses to “Court Rejects County’s Challenge; Upholds Medical Marijuana Identification Program”

    1. Bruno says:

      WOOO!

      That’s excellent news!

      O’NORML. What would we do without you?! I hope you all realize how very much you are appreciated.

    2. Anuvin says:

      Outstanding!

      I agree with Bruno, what would we do without you?

    3. Brandon says:

      This is great news, I love to see my state take strides in the right direction.

    4. Kim Hanna says:

      Bravo! Bravo!

    5. Chris says:

      It’s nice to see that (at least in this decision) the government was actually doing what it should which is standing firm with the will (and better health) of the people.

    6. In Pain in Seattle says:

      It sure is another step in teh right direction. Thank you NORML

    7. Luis says:

      Thanks NORML, I live in San Diego and I recently decided to get my medical marijuana card. I work UPS and it has taxed my body to where I have pain every morning. I had gotten caught for posession last year and had quit smoking ever since. I am tired of popping pills for my pain, I will get my card today and this just encourages me to go through with it. Thanks again NORML.

      Regards,

      Luis

    8. Lyn says:

      Is anybody else covering this story? Local SD papers?

    9. Steve says:

      Since i lve in San Bernardino county i have had to drive 200 miles round trip to get my meds.It is sooooo wrong that the county’s SB,SD even wasted tax payers money on a bogus suit.We residents of both counties need to file a class action suit against those counties for no access to mmj cards,stress,financial hardship the whole cake!!

    10. Lisa says:

      I don’t live in Cali. I’m in Fl.and I wish something like this could be here. But I’m glad it’s starting somewhere. It can be used for so much more and that message needs to sink in sometime. I don’t have an eating disorder, but I have found that it’s very hard to eat without it. Nothing is appealing to me, or doesn’t taste right. Medicinal use has a wide range to cover.

      Congradulations, Lisa in Fl.

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