Medical Marijuana Ally

January 24, 2006

Associated Press, Fox 6 News

San Diego County has a new ally in its maverick effort to upend California's medical marijuana laws after San Bernardino County supervisors decided unexpectedly to join the lawsuit against the state.

Noting that state laws are in conflict with federal drug laws, San Diego County filed a federal court suit friday seeking to overturn Proposition 215, the voter-approved Compassionate Use Act.

The county also asked the court to void a law passed by the Legislature requiring counties to create and maintain a database of medical marijuana users and issue them identification cards.

Three groups that wanted the county to withdraw its suit filed a motion in federal court Tuesday, asking to intervene in the San Diego County action on behalf of patients who use pot to alleviate cancer symptoms and chemotherapy side-effects.

They are the American Civil Liberties Union, the Drug Policy Alliance and Americans for Safe Access and the Drug Policy Alliance.

Americans for Safe Access predicted in a statement that "the county's lawsuit will soon be thrown out of federal court based on the fact that San Diego County has no standing to sue the state in federal court."

San Diego has been the only California county refusing to provide identification cards to registered medical marijuana users, but Tuesday the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors said it also wants the matter clarified in court before proceeding.

"There is a conflict between state and federal law that must be resolved by the courts before the county feels it can move forward," San Bernardino Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Postmus said.

San Bernardino County counsel Ron Reitz issued a one-paragraph statement following the supervisors' unanimous closed-session vote, saying the board had chosen to join San Diego County's lawsuit.

Kevin Keenan, the ACLU's executive director for San Diego and Imperial counties, said that San Bernardino County's action is as "equally meritless" as the San Diego County suit.

San Diego County supervisors voted in November to sue the state to overturn Proposition 215 after refusing to implement the requirement to issue identification cards to registered medical marijuana users.

California voters in 1996 passed the measure decriminalizing the use of medical marijuana, but federal law makes the use of marijuana illegal, even for medical purposes.

San Diego Supervisor Ron Roberts went on record at Tuesday's board meeting in opposition to the San Diego County lawsuit, which Supervisor Pam Slater-Price said is intended to apply only to unincorporated areas of the county, not incorporated cities.

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