San Diego County to sue state to overturn medical marijuana law

January 18, 2006

Associated Press, San Diego Union Tribune

San Diego County will file a lawsuit that challenges a voter-approved California law allowing marijuana use for medical purposes, county officials said Thursday.

County Counsel John Sansone said the county will file a complaint Friday in U.S. District Court in San Diego against the state of California. It will ask a federal judge to decide whether federal law outlawing marijuana use for any purpose trumps the state's decade-old Compassionate Use Act that allows sick people to smoke pot.

In November, San Diego became the first county in California to defy a state-ordered medical marijuana identification card and registry program, ignoring a warning from their own attorneys that the action would lead to costly litigation.

The Board of Supervisors voted the next month to sue the state rather than follow Proposition 215, which legalized marijuana in California with a physician's supervision.

"What the Board of Supervisors did is what I think is the responsible thing to do: If you think a law is not valid then you challenge it," Sansone said.

The American Civil Liberties Union said Wednesday that it was drafting a letter to the county warning that it would intervene to force the county to follow Proposition 215, which was approved by 55 percent of the voters.

"For this one county to decide to go against the will of California voters, it's unprecedented and it's unconstitutional," said the ACLU's Anjuli Verma.

Sansone said a half-dozen California counties, which he declined to name, had come forward with offers of support, although it was not clear whether they would intervene.

The county's decision to defy the state prompted medical marijuana activists to announce Wednesday that they would begin gathering signatures for a voter initiative to impose term limits on the five county supervisors, all of whom have served for at least 12 years.

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