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California's medical marijuana patients are now protected from arrest and seizure of their marijuana, thanks to a binding agreement between Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and state officials.
The signed agreement settles a lawsuit filed last February against the California Highway Patrol by ASA on behalf of qualified medical cannabis patients who had lost their medicine in CHP traffic stops. CHP had a policy of seizing any cannabis found, regardless of whether the officer was shown patient documentation or not.
On August 22, 2005, as a result of the lawsuit, CHP adopted a new policy that respects the rights of qualified patients to possess and transport medical cannabis. The new settlement agreement - signed by CHP officials and counsel for Attorney General Bill Lockyer and Governor Schwarzenegger - makes binding the policy adopted last year. Qualified patients, whether they have a state ID card or not, are allowed to have either the quantities specified by SB420 or the local county guideline amounts, whichever is greater.
"We're urging local officials around the state to adopt similar law enforcement policies," said Kris Hermes, ASA legal campaign director. "Medical cannabis patients have rights under the law that must be respected, and this consent decree acknowledges that."
As part of the settlement, ASA received reimbursement of $75,000 in legal fees for prosecuting the case. ASA received the money yesterday.
"California's private attorney general statute encourages concerned citizens to fix flawed policy through litigation and allows for the award of attorney fees where appropriate," said Joe Elford, ASA Chief Counsel. "This case corrects an egregious policy that completely ignored the right of sick and dying Californians to possess marijuana for medical use."
The new consent decree can be downloaded here.
The CHP policy that went in to effect in August 2005 can be downloaded here.