CA Appellate Court Upholds Medical Marijuana Law

San Diego, CA -- The Fourth District Court of Appeal for the State of California issued a published opinion today stating that federal law does not preempt the state's medical marijuana law. The County of San Diego filed suit against the state in February 2006, which was rejected by the Superior Court in December of that year. The lawsuit challenged the validity of the state identification card program, as well as the foundation of California's medical marijuana laws, but both lower and appellate courts found that the ID card program and state law remained valid and does not violate the state constitution.

"This is a huge win for medical marijuana patients, not only in California, but across the country," said Joe Elford, Chief Counsel of Americans for Safe Access, who argued before the appellate court on behalf of patients. "This ruling makes clear the ability of states to pass medical marijuana laws with an expectation that those laws will be upheld by local and state, if not federal, officials."

In a unanimous opinion authored by Justice Alex McDonald, the court ruled that the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) "signifies Congress's intent to maintain the power of states to elect 'to serve as a laboratory in the trial of novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country' by preserving all state laws that do not positively conflict with the CSA."

Americans for Safe Access (ASA) defended the interests of patients in the appeal and filed briefs along with the ACLU Drug Law Reform Project. Both organizations successfully intervened as defendants in the lawsuit in August of 2006, while the case was still being litigated in the Superior Court. ASA intends to launch an educational campaign soon that will apprise elected officials across the state of their obligation to implement state law, in particular the state ID card program, which both assists law enforcement and bestows greater protection for patients.

San Diego County was originally joined by San Bernardino and Merced Counties, but Merced chose not to appeal, opting instead to implement the state ID card program and a Sheriff's policy on medical marijuana patient encounters. Against the wishes of the San Diego City Council, the County of San Diego filed an appeal in February 2007, along with San Bernardino County. Publicly voicing its opposition to the lawsuit, the City of San Diego filed an amicus 'friend of the court' brief in December 2007, siding with the Attorney General and medical marijuana patient advocates.

"More than eleven years after the passage of Proposition 215, it's about time that we all got on the same page with regard to medical marijuana and the protections afforded by California law," continued Elford. "With two appellate court decisions clearly stating that federal law should not be an excuse to avoid enforcing state law, it is now time for full implementation in California." In March, the California Supreme Court denied review of City of Garden Grove v. Superior Court, another appellate court case that found the state's medical marijuana law was not preempted by federal law.

For further information:
Today's appellate court ruling:
ASA's web page on the San Diego case:
City of San Diego friend of the court brief:
Appellate court ruling in City of Garden Grove v. Superior Court:

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