County joins legal challenge to medical marijuana

September 26, 2006

K. Kaufmann, The Desert Sun

The Riverside County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 Tuesday to join a historic legal challenge to California's medical marijuana laws being mounted by San Diego, San Bernardino and Merced counties.

The case is being heard in San Diego Superior Court, with the case scheduled for Nov. 16.

San Diego originated the case in February, to oppose state requirements that counties issue medical marijuana identification cards to patients with a doctor's recommendation.

The card program is contained in Senate Bill 420, passed in 2003, to provide local governments with guidelines for implementing the state's Compassionate Use Act, or Proposition 215, passed in 1996.

But San Diego County argued that international and federal laws banning the drug pre-empt California's laws.

The counties of San Bernardino and Merced have also joined the suit.

In voting to join the suit, Riverside supervisors said they wanted the courts to resolve the state-federal conflict.

"We need much stronger state standards," said board chair Bob Buster.

In the meantime, the American Civil Liberties Union and Americans for Safe Access, a medical marijuana advocacy group, have joined the suit on the state's side.

Lynette Shaw, who has run a licensed dispensary in Marin County for more than nine years, expects the suit to be thrown out of court, returning the issue to local governments.

"The county can't sue the state over state law," she said. "It's a technicality to stall and scare patients."

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