County joins San Diego in a lawsuit against the state

January 24, 2006

Tracie Troha, Desert Dispatch

The County of San Bernardino has joined a lawsuit against the state to clarify the legality of medical marijuana.

The lawsuit was filed in federal court by the County of San Diego in an effort to address the confusion between state and federal laws regarding the drug.

San Bernardino County Counsel Ron Reitz said under federal law, it is illegal to be in possession of marijuana, regardless of whether it is designated as "medical" or not.

For nearly 10 years Californians have had the right to use medical marijuana if recommended by their doctor. In 2003, California Legislature enacted a requirement that counties must issue identification cards to patients authorized to use medical marijuana or the patient's caregiver.

"The federal and state governments put us in a conflicting situation," Third District Supervisor Dennis Hansberger said. "We need to get a single answer so the state can get in accordance with federal law. Let's make it consistent."

Board Chairman Bill Postmus said the county is in opposition to state's medical marijuana laws because of the problems faced by law enforcement officers.

"There needs to be clear resolution because its difficult for the sheriff and deputies to do their job," Postmus said. "I for one am against it (medical marijuana). By joining in the lawsuit, we looking for a resolution to this."

Reitz said Sheriff Gary Penrod will also be adding his name to the lawsuit.

"I refuse to have law enforcement encounter more crime in implementing this (state) ordinance," Fifth District Supervisor Josie Gonzales said. "I don't want law enforcement to be trapped between a rock and a hard place."

Gonzales said she was also concerned about the identification card requirement and the possibility of fraud.

Reitz said so far San Diego and San Bernardino are the only two counties filling a lawsuit against the state in the medical marijuana matter.

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