CA City Charged with Contempt for Refusing to Uphold Medical Marijuana Law

Los Angeles, CA -- Medical marijuana advocacy organization Americans for Safe Access (ASA) filed legal briefs today accusing the City of Montebello of contempt of court. A request for the Los Angeles Superior Court to issue contempt proceedings was filed in response to the refusal by the City of Montebello to return medical marijuana and other property wrongfully seized by its local police department. On October 15, 2004, local police seized marijuana plants, growing equipment, and personal correspondence from the Montebello home of Terry Walker. Police criminally charged Walker, irrespective of his status as a medical marijuana patient. Walker's criminal case was soon after dismissed and a court order was subsequently issued for the return of his property. However, despite Walker's court order, the City of Montebello refused on several occasions to return any of his property.

"Given recent case law requiring police and local officials to respect state law and return any wrongfully seized medical marijuana, the City of Montebello has a clear obligation to adhere," said Joe Elford, Chief Counsel with ASA, the organization representing Walker in his contempt claim. "This blatant contempt for the rule of law is unacceptable and cities like Montebello will be called out if such conduct continues."

In November 2007, the California Fourth District Court of Appeal issued a 41-page decision rejecting the argument that the state's medical marijuana law is preempted by federal marijuana laws. The court of appeal ruled that "it is not the job of the local police to enforce the federal drug laws." The case City of Garden Grove v. Superior Court involved medical marijuana patient and Garden Grove resident Felix Kha who was charged after a routine traffic stop and 1/3 of an ounce of medical marijuana was seized. As a result of the appellate court decision, the City of Garden Grove, and all other localities in California, are now obligated to return wrongfully seized medical marijuana. In December of 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review Garden Grove's appeal.

"We are going to file contempt charges against cities and counties that run afoul of their obligation under the state's medical marijuana law," continued Elford. "The indiscretion of city's like Montebello will not be tolerated, especially more than twelve years after the passage of Proposition 215, California's Compassionate Use Act." The brief filed today points to the California Code of Civil Procedure, which makes punishable by contempt of court "disobedience of any lawful judgment, order, or process of the court."  In addition, the brief states "courts have the inherent power to punish acts that interfere with the orderly conduct of proceedings," such as those in Walker's case.

Further information:
Today's contempt brief filing with the Los Angeles Superior Court:
Decision by the California Fourth Appellate District Court:

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