Medical marijuana lawsuit filed against Department of Motor Vehicles

November 19, 2008

Merced, CA -- A lawsuit was filed today by medical marijuana advocacy organization Americans for Safe Access (ASA) against the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) on behalf of Rose Johnson, a 53-year-old patient from Atwater. Despite Ms. Johnson's clean driving record, not having caused an accident in 37 years of driving, the DMV revoked her license on July 26, 2008 because of her status as a medical marijuana patient. The DMV refused to renew Ms.

Johnson's license only after obtaining her medical records and finding out that she was a qualified medical marijuana patient. According to the DMV, Ms. Johnson's license was revoked "because of...[an] addiction to, or habitual use of, [a] drug," thereby rendering her unable to safely operate a motor vehicle, even though no evidence existed to substantiate this claim.

"The DMV cannot simply disregard California's medical marijuana law," said ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford, who is representing Ms. Johnson in her claim against the DMV. "When the voters of California enacted the Compassionate Use Act, they never intended to authorize the DMV to strip medical marijuana patients of their drivers' licenses," continued Elford. "The DMV should not be in the business of revoking the licenses of drivers like Ms. Johnson simply because she is a medical marijuana patient."

Advocates assert that the DMV policy of suspending and revoking the licenses of medical marijuana patients is widespread, occurring in at at least 8 California counties, including Alameda, Butte, Contra Costa, Glenn, Merced, Placer, Sacramento, and Sonoma. License revocations by the DMV, which have been based on a person's status as a medical marijuana patient, are often rationalized by calling the drivers "drug abusers" despite no evidence of the claim.

In 2007, Merced -- the county in which Ms. Johnson lives -- implemented a police policy that instructed its Sheriff deputies to respect state law and not to cite medical marijuana patients or seize their medicine. "The DMV is not under a different set of requirements than local police in California," said Elford. "The failure to uphold California's medical marijuana law is entirely inappropriate for any local or state agency."

The lawsuit filed today by ASA is expected to be heard in Merced Superior Court in the next few months. The lawsuit against the DMV is part of a campaign by ASA to fully implement California's medical marijuana laws.

Further information:
ASA's lawsuit against the DMV: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/DMV_Writ.pdf

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