Judge to Hear Contempt Charges for Montebello's Defiance of Medical Marijuana Law

Los Angeles, CA -- A superior court judge will hear oral arguments Tuesday in a case that charges the City of Montebello with contempt for refusing to return a medical marijuana patient's property despite a court order and established case law. National advocacy group Americans for Safe Access (ASA) took on the case of medical marijuana patient Terry Walker after Montebello repeatedly spurned Walker's efforts to seek the return of his wrongfully seized property. "Montebello has absolutely no legal leg to stand on," said ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford, who will be arguing Tuesday on behalf of Walker. "The city cannot brazenly defy a court order as well as established case law on medical marijuana without facing the consequences."

Coincidentally, the Montebello contempt hearing comes less than a week after the Montebello Country Club hosted an anti-medical marijuana training for law enforcement, which was organized by the California Narcotics Officers Association (CNOA). Advocates argued that the CNOA training on the "eradication" of medical marijuana dispensaries was blatantly contemptuous of state law and held protests last Thursday outside the country club.
What: Oral arguments in medical marijuana case charging the City of Montebello with contempt
When: Tuesday, October 13th at 8:30am
Where: Los Angeles Superior Court, Department 122 at 210 West Temple Street, Los Angeles
The police officer responsible for overseeing Walker's property, as well as other Montebello city officials, will be cross-examined on Tuesday as to their role in the obstruction of Walker's rights. The contempt brief filed by ASA  in December of 2008 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, ASA's brief states that, "courts have the inherent power to punish acts that interfere with the orderly conduct of proceedings," such as those in Walker's case.

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 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 wrongfully seized medical marijuana, the City of Montebello has a clear obligation to adhere," continued Elford. "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.

For further information:

ASA's December 2008 contempt brief filed in Los Angeles Superior Court: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/Walker_Contempt.pdf
2007 Garden Grove Decision by the California Fourth Appellate District Court: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/GardenGroveDecision.pdf
Flyer for last week's anti-medical marijuana training in Montebello: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/CNOA_flyer_9_2009.pdf

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