DMV employee disciplined for ordering driving test for medical marijuana user

January 13, 2005

Brian Melley, Associated Press

A Department of Motor Vehicles employee was disciplined for ordering an extra driving evaluation for a medical marijuana user with a case before the U.S. Supreme Court, the agency said Friday.

After Diane Monson's lawyer complained she was being unfairly targeted for review without any driving violations, the DMV concluded that she did not need to appear for the re-examination hearing, spokesman Bill Branch said.

The DMV did not name the driving safety officer who ordered the hearing or divulge the level of discipline, but said it had 'taken appropriate action under civil service guidelines' and ordered the officer to take additional training, Branch said.

Monson, 47, an Oroville accountant who uses the drug to relieve back pain, received notice from the DMV last month ordering her to appear at a re-examination hearing or face losing her driver's license. The notice did not say why she was selected, but it arrived shortly after she passed an eye exam to renew her license.

Because of confidentiality laws, the agency did not say why Monson was selected for a re-examination hearing, which are held routinely in cases involving drivers involved in serious crashes or who have been cited for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol at least three times over three years.

The re-examination would have required Monson to fill out forms giving her medical history and could have included a driving test.

Before delivering a cease-and-desist letter to the DMV last month, Monson's lawyer, David Michael, said she was singled out because she uses pot for her pain.

Michael was out of the country Friday, a spokesman said. Monson did not immediately return phone messages from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Branch said the hearing officer should have gathered more information before issuing a summons to Monson, who has been at the center of a high-profile medical marijuana case.

Monson and another California woman sued U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft because they feared their marijuana supply would disappear after federal agents seized six pot plants in 2002 on her rural property on Rattlesnake Peak.

They prevailed in the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which ruled that federal prosecution of medical marijuana users is unconstitutional if the pot is not sold, transported across state lines or used for nonmedicinal purposes.

That case, now before the Supreme Court, will determine if federal law enforcement agents can seize pot grown by users in states where it can be legally prescribed as medicine.

California law allows people to grow, smoke or obtain marijuana for medical needs with a doctor's recommendation. Other states with such laws are Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Vermont and Washington.

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