Medical Marijuana Patients, City of San Diego Reject County's Claim of Federal Preemption

December 18, 2007
San Diego, CA -- A group of medical marijuana patients from across California filed a legal brief today using two new legal arguments that oppose San Diego County's attempt to overturn state law. The patients' brief, filed by Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a nationwide medical marijuana advocacy organization, came only days after the City of San Diego filed an amicus, "friend of the court," brief in support of patients and in opposition to the county's legal challenge.

San Diego County filed a lawsuit in February 2006 challenging the state requirement to implement an identification card program for qualified medical marijuana patients and their primary caregivers. San Diego County was subsequently joined in its lawsuit by San Bernardino and Merced Counties. The California Attorney General is defending state law in the case, and ASA is defending the interests of patients in San Diego and across the state. The ACLU also represents other defendants in the case.

In December 2006, San Diego Superior Court Judge William Nevitt, Jr. ruled that there is no "positive conflict" between federal and state law, affirming the sovereignty of state law. The Counties of San Diego and San Bernardino appealed in February, but Merced decided instead to implement an ID card program and a new Sheriff's policy with regard to medical marijuana.

"With a recent appellate court decision rejecting the argument that federal law preempts state law and now support from the City of San Diego," said ASA Chief Counsel, author of the patients' brief filed today. "We're in a prime position to prevail." Elford continued, "The shame is that the County of San Diego continues to waste valuable time and taxpayer money at the expense of seriously ill patients in California."

In a stinging rebuke to San Diego County's challenge to state law, the City of San Diego filed a brief less than two weeks ago, which strongly asserted that, "The identification card program does not conflict with federal law, so there is no excuse for the County's failure to implement this state-law mandated program."

San Diego County's main legal argument, that federal law preempts state law, was also dealt a recent blow in California's Fourth Appellate District, the same appellate court that will hear this case. In the November 28th ruling in City of Garden Grove v. Superior Court of Orange County, the court held that state law was neither "preempted" nor "superseded" and stated further that, "it is not the job of the local police to enforce the federal drug laws..."

In addition to citing the City of Garden Grove decision in the appellate brief filed today, patients used a new legal argument related to firearm laws in the State of Massachusetts. In 1969, Massachusetts adopted a law that allows felons residing in the state to possess firearms, despite a prohibition on such conduct under federal law. Like California's medical marijuana law, Massachusetts implemented an ID card program, which has existed for nearly 40 years without a successful legal challenge by state or federal courts.

For further information, refer to:
ASA's appellate brief filed today on behalf of patients in opposition to the appeal by San Diego County
City of San Diego amicus "friend of the court" brief in opposition to the appeal San Diego County
December 2006 Superior Court ruling rejecting San Diego County's challenge to state law
Merced's new Sheriff's policy as a result of the San Diego Superior Court ruling
November 2007 Appellate Court ruling in City of Garden Grove v. Superior Court of Orange County

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