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OAKLAND – Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a medical marijuana patient advocacy group, today filed a motion for a preliminary injunction against the California Highway Patrol (CHP) and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. The injunction seeks an accelerated decision from the court in putting an end to the CHP's policy of seizing marijuana from qualified patients. The injunction is a follow-up to ASA’s lawsuit filed against the CHP on February 15, 2005.
The injunction would also prevent the CHP from working with other law enforcement officers to seize marijuana from qualified patients; require the state to train its officers; and require the CHP to return the medical marijuana it has already seized. “This injunction points to a widespread failure by police to recognize the state’s medical marijuana laws,” said ASA Legal Campaign Director Kris Hermes. “We are hopeful that required training for law enforcement will go a long way in stemming the tide of unlawful arrests and seizures.”
The CHP has a stated policy of seizing marijuana even when a county medical marijuana identification card or doctor’s recommendation is presented. In People v. Mower, the California Supreme Court declared that probable cause depends on all of the surrounding facts, including the presentation of documentation indicating one's status as a qualified medical marijuana patient. The CHP policy disregards this state Supreme Court precedent.
The legal grounds for this injunction are based on the state’s constitutional prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures, and the right to due process. Both the Governor and the CHP are represented in this suit by the Attorney General's Office, which, on June 22, 2003, issued a bulletin forbidding state law enforcement from seizing marijuana from qualified patients on the basis of federal law. In addition, Attorney General Bill Lockyer recognized in a formal written opinion filed June 23, 2005, that it is inconsistent with state law for police officers to seize marijuana from patients only because they do not have a voluntary identification card.
The group lawsuit filed earlier this year by Americans for Safe Access involves six patients and seeks to challenge the CHP’s policy, forcing it to amend that policy so that it is in compliance with state law. One of the plaintiffs, Mary Jane Winters, a registered nurse who uses marijuana to treat chronic pain stemming from three herniated discs in her spine, was pulled over by the CHP on Thanksgiving Day, 2004 while on her way to deliver flowers to a homeless shelter. The officer seized her two ounces of marijuana, despite being presented with a physician’s recommendation to use marijuana medicinally. There was no reason to believe, much less probable cause to believe, that Ms. Winters was not in compliance with California law. The same can be said of the remainder of the class represented by ASA – all are qualified medical marijuana patients who possessed very small amounts of marijuana, which they were legally entitled to possess and transport under California law.
For a copy of the preliminary injunction, see: http://www.safeaccessnow.org/downloads/CHP_Injunction.pdf
For a copy of the lawsuit filed on February 15, 2005, see: http://www.safeaccessnow.org/downloads/CHP_Complaint.pdf
A national coalition of 12,000 patients, doctors and advocates, Americans for Safe Access is the largest organization working solely on medical marijuana. To learn more, see www.SafeAccessNow.org