San Diego pot case a go

June 12, 2006

Kia Momtazi , San Diego City Beat

San Diego County won a big victory last Friday in its attempt to overturn Prop. 215, the California law that allows sick people to use marijuana for medicinal purposes with a doctor’s recommendation.

Though Prop. 215 was approved by voters 10 years ago, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors decided late last year to challenge the law after the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML, threatened to sue the county for failing to implement a 2004 state law requiring I.D. cards to be issued to medical-marijuana patients. Supervisors argued that both Prop. 215 and the I.D.-card law are preempted by federal law, which prohibits any kind of marijuana use.

After hearing arguments from San Diego and San Bernardino counties over the “ripeness” of the case—essentially that Prop.215 creates friction between the state and federal governments—San Diego County Superior Court Judge William Nevitt ruled there was enough merit for the case to proceed.

Nevitt did point out that arguments about the medicinal value of marijuana were outside the scope of the case. He said his role is to rule on the alleged conflict between federal and state laws and not “between the wisdom or the propriety” of either.

Nevitt’s ruling didn’t dampen the spirits of medical-marijuana advocates who gathered for the hearing.

“We’re confident that federal law does not preempt [Prop. 215],” said Kris Hermes, legal director Americans for Safe Access. “Over two-thirds of San Diego voters approved Prop. 215.”

Rudy Reyes, who suffered burns over 65 percent of his body in the Cedar fire and now uses marijuana for pain control, said the judge’s decision not to throw out the county’s lawsuit made sense.

“We have to let it play out,” he said. “At least we’re going to have a chance to present the arguments.”



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