Majority doesn't always prevail

September 17, 2004

Paul Jacobs, North County Times

Like it or not, majorities do not always rule. Californians overwhelmingly passed Proposition 187 10 years ago to deny undocumented immigrants access to health care and education, but a court decision reversed the will of the voters.

On its face, it is wrong to leave a segment of American society diseased and uneducated, but I'm fairly certain the legal ruling was based on law, not compassion.

With Proposition 22 in 2000, voters mandated that the state shall not recognize same-sex marriages, and that issue continues its journey for the Supreme Court to decide. Does the will of the people overrule our Constitution?

A majority of California voters also approved the use of medicinal marijuana, though federal law still classifies nearly all marijuana use as illegal. Temecula officials weighed in on this issue at last Tuesday's council meeting when they voted unanimously to 'just say no' to the voters.

Actually, the council put in place an interim ordinance to prevent the formation of a medical marijuana dispensary after an interested party in San Francisco contacted Temecula City Hall. Since there is a clash between state and federal law, the city wants 45 days to give the issue minimal consideration until they can arrange for a permanent ban of medical marijuana distribution within city limits.

Three brave and articulate individuals asked the council to respect the will of the voters. Even as they rejected the commercial interest of the San Francisco dispensary that contacted the city, they asked the council to consider the needs of patients who have medical marijuana prescriptions. The council wasn't listening to begin with, but then they got Stoned.

Councilman and soon-to-be county Supervisor Jeff Stone could hardly wait for the public speakers to pipe down so he could deliver his diatribe on the horrors of non-pharmaceutical marijuana. Stone offered statements that are in direct conflict with information readily available on the Web site.

Like most professional pharmacists, Stone apparently has little faith in herbal remedies.

We have a remarkable democracy with diverse ---- and sometimes contradictory ---- laws. It often takes brave cities such as Temecula and San Francisco to stand up against the law to force the courts to make a ruling that either enforces or repeals questionable legislation. Those rulings are often challenged through the appellate process to a higher court ---- no pun intended.

Well-intended legislation can be fraught with unintended oversights and our judicial system interprets the ensuing legal complexities. Does the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness allow for same-sex marriages? Are all people within our borders ---- legally or not ---- entitled to the basics of human decency? During times of soaring prescription and health-care costs do we deny patients a drug that they can grow in their own back yard?

With the help of our Constitution, which guarantees us certain unalienable rights, the courts will decide what and who is legal. The Supreme Court has given us equal rights, legalized abortion, anti-discrimination laws and George W. Bush as president of this great nation. The scales of justice and democracy have proven to be unwieldy tools and sometimes even the greatest legal minds can make a wrong decision.

Paul Jacobs of Temecula is a regular columnist for The Californian. E-mail:

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