San Diego Judge Upholds State Medical Marijuana Law

December 05, 2006

City Wire News, KGTV 10News (San Diego)

A San Diego Superior Court judge Wednesday upheld California's medical marijuana law, throwing out a lawsuit brought by San Diego, San Bernardino and Merced counties.

Judge William Nevitt confirmed his tentative ruling of Nov. 16 against the plaintiffs' claim that federal law banning marijuana use and possession supercedes state law that allows the medical use of the drug.

Passed by California voters in 1996, the so-called Compassionate Use Act allows the use of marijuana for pain treatment and other medical reasons.

"The rulings herein do not decide whether marijuana has medical benefits, or for whom," the judge wrote in his final ruling.

The suit was filed against the local chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML, after the San Diego County Board of Supervisors refused to implement part of the state law requiring officials to issue identification cards to medical marijuana users to protect them from prosecution.

The American Civil Liberties Union, Americans for Safe Access and the Drug Policy Alliance joined San Diego NORML in fighting the suit. Thomas Bunton, the chief deputy counsel for San Diego County, told the judge last month that the federal Controlled Substances Act of 1970 contains a provision that overrides state drug laws.

"Authorizing anyone to use marijuana undercuts the objective of federal laws," Bunton argued. Federal law does not recognize the medical use of marijuana, the lawyer contended.

The ACLU's lawyer, Adam Wolf, said the medical marijuana law only bars state police from enforcing federal drug statutes.

"We're not saying federal law can't be enforced," Wolf said earlier. "All we're saying is the state doesn't have to be an active partner with federal law enforcement."

Joseph Elford, an attorney for Americans for Safe Access, told the judge that there is no conflict between Proposition 215 and federal law.

Even with marijuana use allowed for medical purposes, California is "90 percent of the way" toward compliance with federal anti-drug statutes, Elford said.

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