San Diego Supervisors wrong on medical marijuana

December 12, 2005

EDITORIAL, Noprth County Times

San Diego County supervisors made a bizarre choice last week to waste time and money suing the state to overturn its medical marijuana laws. The decision just doesn't pass the common-sense test.

State and county voters nine years ago decided that people suffering from a variety of diseases can obtain legal access to marijuana if a doctor decides the drug can help. Yet the five folks who run county government have refused to implement the law.

In August, a grand jury found the county was flagrantly ignoring a state mandate to create a registry and identification cards for terminally and chronically ill people who use marijuana for relief from pain and other maladies. The worthy idea behind the state law was that victims of disease should not be treated the same as drug dealers. Identification cards would give police a valuable tool to tell the difference.

This is a popular, humane law that does no harm to anyone. However, our county supervisors have chosen political posturing over compassion and respect for state law.

By a 4-0 vote, Supervisors Bill Horn, Pam Slater-Price, Dianne Jacob and Greg Cox (Ron Roberts was absent) ordered county lawyers to sue the state, asking a court to overturn its medical marijuana laws.

To be sure, there is a legal struggle under way. Federal law holds that marijuana is an illegal drug with no medical value. Majorities of California voters and lawmakers decided the opposite. The U.S. Supreme Court will eventually settle the conflict; so far it has leaned toward federal primacy in regulating drugs.

So, where is San Diego County's place in this struggle? It's a fair question, but our supervisors have reached the wrong answer.

County officials can indeed issue identification cards without violating federal law. That distinction belongs to the individuals who choose to buy or grow their medicine in accordance with state law.

In short, this is none of the county's business. Their job is to enact state law and watch from the sidelines. If federal agents want to chase cancer victims, the county is at most a bystander.

San Diego County supervisors clearly picked the wrong battle. If they were itching to sue someone, there are major issues galore ---- state-local struggles over transportation funding, health care, water quality and land use, for openers.

Of course, such issues won't get a local politician's picture on national television.

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