CA Weekly Alert 1/19/2009

1. San Deigo and San Bernardino Appeal ID Cards to US Supreme Court

After three consecutive losses in court, San Diego and San Bernardino Counties sent yet another petition to the US Supreme Court, asking to quit their state-mandated obligation to provide ID cards through their county health departments to legitimate medical cannabis patients, the goal being to protect them from wrongful arrest, and to make the distinction between recreational and medical use easier on police. The original lawsuit filed by the two counties in 2006 asserted that they were under no obligation to abide by California law by providing the ID's, since it differed from federal law.  The case was argued against by ASA's Chief Counsel Joe Elford and struck down once at the trial courts, sent to the Appeals Court and struck down again, and then appealed to the California Supreme Court, which refused to review the case after considering the San Diego and San Bernardino position to be nonsensical.  In every medical cannabis court ruling ever issued, including ones that were generally bad for patients, courts have always asserted that state medical cannabis laws can exist and operate along with federal laws.  And yet the Southern California counties have continued to spend taxpayer dollars to fight this overwhelmingly consistent legal precedent.   Now they've done it again, appealing to the United States Supreme Court for review. ASA has been campaigning to implement the County ID card program since SB 420 was passed by the California Assembly in 2003.  We've seen legal success with the initial suit, success of our chapters in pushing for county implementation, we compelled counties to implement the program by threatening legal action to those who don't comply, and most recently filed suit against Solano County for not doing so.

2. Sacramento Begins Issuing ID Cards

While San Diego and San Bernardino appeal to the US Supreme Court to avoid giving ID cards to patients who need them, Sacramento, a former  hold-out county that has seen the light (due to threats of litigation from ASA) opened the application process for the ID cards on January 12th. Applications are accepted by appointment only with Sacramento County Vital Records. Appointments will be from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Wednesdays and Fridays. Application forms are available on the Sacramento County Public Health Department's Web site at or through the Sacramento County Vital Records office:  7001 East Parkway, Suite 650.  To request an application via mail, call (916) 875-2066.

3. Rosenthal Trial Underway

On Wednesday, renown medical cannabis activist Ed Rosenthal went to Appeals Court for oral arguments in his "reconviction" for charges for which he was originally convicted, and sentenced to one day in prison - time already served, in 2003.   During arguments, Rosenthal's attorneys argued that he was not allowed to present an adequate defense because the judge refused to allow any evidence or hear testimony from individuals that Rosenthal had been deputized by the City of Oakland to grow medical cannabis in compliance with California's medical cannabis laws, and thus was protected from federal prosecution. Since 2000 when George Bush took office, the federal government has been interfering in state medical cannabis laws by arresting and prosecuting individuals who faithfully and legally execute those laws.  During court proceedings federal judges keep the jury from knowing anything about the laws.   The defendant, in this case Rosenthal, is presented to the jury as an ordinary large scale illegal drug dealer - even when elected officials, police, and other administrators and government officials give permission for and sanction the growing of medical cannabis in compliance with the law. Federal agents arrested Rosenthal in 2002, and a federal jury convicted him in 2003 of three counts of marijuana cultivation and conspiracy, though most jurors renounced the verdict upon learning that presiding Judge had disallowed evidence that Rosenthal grew the cannabis as a deputized Oakland official.   The 9th Circuit Court overturned Rosenthal's convictions in April 2006, after discovering that a juror had engaged in misconduct by asking a lawyer friend whether jurors could ignore evidence and vote their conscience ("jury nullification").  Federal prosecutors re-indicted Rosenthal in 2006 on the same charges plus nine more, but the nine charges were dismissed in 2007 after the judge found that prosecutors had engaged in "vindictive prosecution".   Rosenthal was re-convicted on May 30, 2007 despite the fact that could not be punished, as he had already served his sentence for the same charges.   This is the appeal for his second conviction for the same offense.

4. Yucca Valley Council Extends Moratorium

On Thursday, the Yucca Valley Town Council approved extending a 45-day moratorium on new medical cannabis dispensaries or its distribution at existing businesses an extra 10 months and 15 days.  City staff are expected to study the dispensaries and submit their findings to the Planning Commission in February or March, and to have a second reading of a dispensary ordinance ready by June at the latest.  Opposition to dispensaries was vocal at the meetings, and so community members supportive of medical cannabis action should take necessary steps to organize vocal support for the dispensaries.