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5pt;' class='MsoNormal'>OAKLAND – A medical marijuana rights group, Americans for Safe Access, is filing a group lawsuit on behalf of seven legal medical marijuana patients and caregivers against the California Highway Patrol (CHP) and Governor Schwarzenegger for the CHP policy of confiscating marijuana despite valid documentation of their legal patient status.
WHEN: Tuesday, February 15, 2005, 10 am
All the plaintiffs are qualified medical marijuana patients who possessed very small amounts of marijuana, which they were legally entitled to possess and transport under California law. All were stopped by the CHP for alleged traffic offenses, and had their medicine confiscated by the police as an added punishment. "A number of patients were told by CHP officers that they don't recognize Proposition 215," said Kris Hermes, ASA's legal director. "CHP officers are sworn to uphold the laws of this state, not subvert them." The suit argues that the CHP’s policy of disregarding the Compassionate Use Act not only violates California law, but both the federal and state constitutions.
It has been more than eight years since the passage of the Compassionate Use Act (CUA) in 1996, where California voters approved the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Since then, the California legislature has enacted law (SB 420) clarifying the CUA and explicitly allowing for transportation of marijuana by qualified patients and caregivers.
Local law enforcement in California has exhibited ongoing resistance to enforcing state law, despite the enactment of both the CUA and SB 420. A report issued last August by Americans for Safe Access stated that while this inappropriate conduct by law enforcement occurs in the vast majority of California’s 58 counties, the worst offender is the California Highway Patrol. The medical marijuana group is suing the CHP to change their official policy stating that, “[e]ven if a Section 11362.5 H&S claim is alleged, all marijuana shall be confiscated and booked as evidence.” The only state-required documentation of legal patient status is a copy of a current doctor's recommendation, which the CHP refuses to accept as anything but an 'alleged' claim.
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. "Confiscation from legal patients is a civil rights violation," said Winters. "They had no reason to believe that I was not in compliance with California law."
WHEN: Tuesday, February 15, 2005, 10 am
WHERE: Alameda County Administration Building plaza, 1221 Oak St., Oakland
WHO: Medical marijuana patient plaintiffs and legal staff of Americans for Safe Access
WHAT: Press conference to announce filing of patient lawsuit against CHP
To see the complaint, go to
To read the CHP policy on medical marijuana, go to http://www.safeaccessnow.org/downloads/CHP_Policy.pdf