State supreme court declines to hear county's appeal on medical marijuana
October 15, 2008
Jeff McDonald, San Diego Union TribuneThe California Supreme Court on Thursday declined to consider the latest appeal from San Diego County in its yearslong effort to resist state medical marijuana laws.
“This is a resounding victory for seriously ill Californians and for California voters,” said Adam Wolf of the American Civil Liberties Union, which is co-defending the case along with the state Attorney General's Office and the advocacy group Americans for Safe Access.
“It's an affirmation of the legitimacy of state medical marijuana laws. ”
Even before the court's decision, the county Board of Supervisors directed its lawyers to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, Senior Deputy County Counsel Thomas Bunton said.
“We always believed our best chance to prevail in this case was at the U.S. Supreme Court,” he said.
In 2006, the county sued rather than implement the state law that requires counties to issue medical marijuana ID cards. A majority of supervisors said they could not embrace a state law they considered a violation of federal law.
San Bernardino and Merced counties originally joined the suit, although Merced County supervisors later reversed course and voted to begin issuing the cards.
Marijuana remains illegal under federal drug statutes despite laws in at least 11 states permitting qualified patients to use it as a pain reliever.
The county's suit was rejected in Superior Court in 2006. The county appealed and lost, then appealed again to the state high court.
Sick and dying patients, who were awarded the right to use and grow marijuana by California voters in 1996, say the cards help police decide who is using marijuana legally and who might be abusing the drug.
“Right now patients are being persecuted by police,” said Rudy Reyes, a medical marijuana patient badly burned in the 2003 Cedar fire. “If I have a card, the cops know automatically what to do and how to behave.”
The county has 90 days to file its petition with the nation's high court. If the court declines to hear the case, the county would likely be notified sometime next spring. If it is accepted, a ruling probably would not be issued until 2010.