Medical Marijuana Group Gets $139,000 in Attorneys Fees for Landmark Case

June 17, 2009
Oakland, CA -- The national medical marijuana advocacy organization Americans for Safe Access (ASA) was paid yesterday by the City of Garden Grove $139,000 in attorneys fees for a settlement agreement in a landmark medical marijuana case. The fees awarded to ASA are in addition to more than $100,000 that Garden Grove spent fighting the state's medical marijuana law, likely totaling more than a quarter of a million dollars. The case City of Garden Grove v. Superior Court involved the wrongful seizure of medical marijuana from Garden Grove patient Felix Kha, and resulted in a landmark decision rejecting the city's argument that state law was preempted by federal law. Instead, California's Fourth Appellate District ruled that, "it is not the job of the local police to enforce the federal drug laws."

"It's unfortunate that the City of Garden Grove felt it necessary to challenge the rights of patients in California by spending more than a quarter of a million dollars to refuse to return medical marijuana worth approximately two hundred dollars," said Joe Elford, Chief Counsel with Americans for Safe Access. "Nevertheless, this should force local officials to better uphold medical marijuana patients' rights under the law." The 41-page landmark decision was appealed by Garden Grove, but was instead upheld after a denial of review by the California Supreme Court in November 2007 and, most recently, by the U.S. Supreme Court in December 2008.

The Kha case was the result of a wrongful seizure of medical marijuana by local police in June 2005. Kha was pulled over by the Garden Grove Police Department and cited for possession of marijuana, despite presenting officers with the proper documentation. The marijuana charge against Kha was subsequently dismissed, with the Superior Court of Orange County issuing an order to return Kha's wrongfully seized 8 grams of medical marijuana. The police, backed by the City of Garden Grove, refused to return Kha's medicine and the city appealed. While the case was before the appellate court, the California Attorney General filed a "friend of the court" brief on behalf of Kha's right to possess his medicine. This, in turn, prompted several statewide law enforcement associations to file briefs in support of Garden Grove, challenging the state's medical marijuana law.

"Medical marijuana advocates are hailing this landmark decision and today's settlement for attorneys fees as a huge victory that underscores law enforcement's obligation to uphold state law," continued Elford. "Better adherence to state medical marijuana laws by local police will result in fewer needless arrests and seizures, and will allow for better implementation of those laws not only in California, but in all medical marijuana states."

Further information:
Attorneys fees settlement agreement & check: http://www.AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/Kha_Attorneys_Fees_Settlement.pdf
Landmark decision by California's Fourth District Court of Appeal: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/GardenGroveDecision.pdf
Felix Kha's return of property case: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/article.php?id=4412

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