Saturday, October 18, 2008

Calif's medical marijuana law survives another challenge

Got an e-mail at work with some of the best news of the season. The California Supreme Court has declined to review a landmark case that requires counties to implement the medical marijuana patient identification, and makes it clear that the absurd federal prohibition law does not preempt the medical marijuana law California voters approved in 1996.

As an effort to implement the initiative that carves out exceptions to California’s anti-marijuana laws for patients with a valid recommendation from a licensed physician, the legislature passed SB 420 which among other things requires counties to set up a voluntary ID card system for patients to help police and patients identify bona fide patients. San Diego County sued the state in 2006, arguing among other things that federal law preempted state law and that California’s medical marijuana law should be declared invalid. The San Diego Superior Court rejected that argument in December 2006, and the Fourth District Court of Appeals also rejected it in July of this year. The decision by the state Supreme Court not to review it means counties must set up an ID card program and perhaps most importantly, as Joe Elford, chief council of Americans for Safe Access noted, “that federal law does not preempt state law relating to medical marijuana.”

There are still plenty of police agencies dragging their feet when it comes to recognizing the legal rights of patients, sometimes including harassing patients. This decision makes it clear that they have no legal standing to do so. Now it’s time for reluctant law enforcement agencies to do what they should always have done — enforce the law on the books, not the law as they might have preferred it to be.

(Cross-posted at Orange Punch)

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