Medical marijuana laws targeted

January 10, 2006

Leslie Branscomb, San Diego Union Tribune

Medical marijuana advocates yesterday urged county supervisors to drop their plans for a lawsuit challenging the state law that allows the ill to use pot with a doctor's approval.

But to no avail. Counsel John Sansone said the suit would probably be filed next week.

Several dozen pro-marijuana activists held a rally outside the county administration building before arriving en masse at the Board of Supervisors' first meeting of the year. About half a dozen spoke to the supervisors.

Their presentation was not on the agenda, so the board was prohibited from discussing it or taking action.

That was fine with the protesters.

"All I'm here to do is introduce myself to them," said Rudy Reyes, before the meeting began. "I'd like to ask them, 'Hey, where's the compassion?' 

"I'm here to see why they're making these medical decisions for me," said Reyes, who was severely burned in the Cedar Fire in October 2003. "They're not doctors."

Mark-Robert Bluemel, Reyes' attorney, said legal action against the county may be "in the works."

"The bottom line is we have a county government that refuses to comply with the law," Bluemel said. "It's baffling."

In November, the supervisors voted – against Sansone's advice – to sue the state to challenge Senate Bill 420, the 2003 law requiring counties to provide identification cards to medical marijuana users to protect them from state prosecution. The supervisors have refused to comply with the requirement.

Last month, the supervisors voted to sue the state to overturn Proposition 215, the "Compassionate Use" law passed by the voters in 1996, which allows use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Sansone said yesterday that a single lawsuit will argue that federal law supersedes state law when there is a conflict. Under federal law, possession and use of marijuana is a crime.

"We're going to be asking the court to declare the two state laws invalid," Sansone said.

The marijuana activists said after the board meeting that they felt the supervisors were attentive to their presentation.

"I think that they were listening," said Laurie Kallonakis, president of San Diego NORML, which advocates legalization of marijuana.

"We will come to the board as much as possible, every meeting they have, until they either decide not to sue or until it is resolved one way or another."

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