Lawsuit threatened over suspension of medical marijuana program

July 14, 2005

, The Advocate

The American Civil Liberties Union’s Drug Law Reform Project and the Drug Policy Alliance are threatening to sue California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for suspending a program that issues state IDs to those determined to be eligible to legally use medicinal marijuana. Schwarzenegger’s administration suspended the ID program just days before it was set to expand statewide from a four-county tryout and a little more than a month after a U.S.

Supreme Court ruling that federal antidrug laws banning any marijuana use always trump state-level measures permitting medicinal use. 

State health director Sandra Shewry said the program, which issued ID cards to residents determined eligible to grow, buy, and smoke medical marijuana, was suspended until the attorney general can determine if participants and state employees are at risk of federal prosecution.

The ACLU and the Drug Policy Alliance say they will sue Schwarzenegger unless his administration reverses its suspension of the program.

“Governor Schwarzenegger took an oath of office to uphold state laws, not hijack them,” said Allen Hopper, an attorney with the ACLU. “California voters and the legislature have rejected the federal war on medical marijuana patients, and the governor must respect that judgment.”

In a letter to the Shewry Wednesday, the groups point out that state attorney general Bill Lockyer has already made clear in one of many recent bulletins on the issue that state officials may not refuse to abide by the provisions of the Compassionate Use Act on the basis that this act conflicts with federal law.”  The letter further explains that the state constitution and the state's highest court prohibit the governor from ignoring state law, even if he believes it conflicts with federal law, and that attorneys general in Hawaii and Oregon have already ruled their medical marijuana initiatives can legally continue despite the federal ban.

“It is shameful that a court may have to order the state to reopen the doors to its medical marijuana program, but this will be the inevitable result unless the governor backs down from this unfounded assault on legitimate medical marijuana patients,” said Daniel Abrahamson, Legal Affairs Director for the Drug Policy Alliance.

The full letter sent by the ACLU and the Drug Policy Alliance to the state health director can be seen online at www.aclu.org.




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