Riverside County to mull joining medical marijuana suit

January 31, 2006

Jose Carvajal, North County Times (CA)

Supervisor Jeff Stone wants Riverside County to join its neighbors to the north and south in attempting to overturn California's medical marijuana law.

At Stone's urging, the Board of Supervisors is expected to discuss in closed session Tuesday whether to join San Diego and San Bernardino counties in suing the state over the 9-year-old "Compassionate Use Act" ---- Proposition 215 ---- which allows the "seriously ill" to obtain and use marijuana for medicinal purposes.

Stone, a pharmacist, said Prop. 215 contradicts a federal law that classifies marijuana as an illegal drug.

"I believe that the federal law trumps the state law," Stone said. "All of the federal laws have to be equally or more adhered to because the federal laws supersede all other laws in the United States of America."

San Diego County officials filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court on Jan. 20 making the same argument. It is believed to be the first lawsuit that seeks to overturn any of the medical marijuana laws approved by voters in 11 states.

The suit argues that states have to bow to a federal law that makes all marijuana use illegal and says it has no medicinal value. It cites Article VI of the U.S. Constitution ---- known as the "Supremacy Clause" ---- which makes the Constitution and federal laws "the supreme law of the land."

"The issue is, the state's asking the county to do something here that they know darn well is illegal," San Diego County Supervisor Bill Horn said at the time.

It took a week for San Bernardino County supervisors to decide that they wanted to file their own lawsuit. It is expected that the two suits will be consolidated and that Riverside County's ---- if ultimately filed ---- would join them.

Area medical marijuana advocates could not be reached for comment Wednesday.

Stone said the lawsuit would ultimately settle what has been a confusing situation for counties, which have had to regulate medical marijuana use while questions regarding its legality have gone unanswered.

"Hopefully, this lawsuit will give the counties some guidelines as to how to move forward," he said.

Rather than wait and see what happens with the suits filed by the other counties, Stone said Riverside County should jump in so that judges who decide the case can see that there are many counties in the state that are grappling with the issue.

If the county goes ahead with the lawsuit, he said, it will not suspend a state-mandated identification card program that prevents someone from being arrested for possessing medical marijuana.

Eighty-five cards have been issued through the program since it began in December, county public health officials said Wednesday.

The Board will consider the matter Tuesday at the County Administrative Center, 4080 Lemon St., Riverside.

Contact staff writer Jose Carvajal at (951) 676-4315, Ext. 2624, or jcarvajal@californian.com.

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