Pubdate: Wed, 22 Mar 2006
Source: North County Times (Escondido, CA)
Copyright: 2006 North County Times
Note: Gives LTE priority to North San Diego County and Southwest 
Riverside County residents
Author: Gig Conaughton, Staff Writer
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


NORTH COUNTY ---- State officials formally asked judges to throw out 
San Diego County's precedent-setting lawsuit seeking to overturn 
California's 10-year-old medical marijuana law, saying that the only 
controversy over the law was in the minds of county supervisors.

State Attorney General Bill Lockyer's office argued in motions filed 
Tuesday in Superior Court that San Diego County supervisors simply 
"disliked" California's voter-approved "Compassionate Use Act," and 
that there was no legal reason for the courts to entertain their lawsuit.

Nathan Barankin, spokesman for Lockyer, said that the state's 
position was essentially that the county's lawsuit was simply a 
request for the courts to rule on the legality of California's law, 
and involved no actual parties in dispute.

"Because courts can only hear cases that involve real factual 
disputes between opposing parties, and because there is no actual 
dispute here, such a request for an advisory opinion requires 
dismissal of the charges," Barankin said.

He said the courts could rule on the state's motion in May.

The county of San Diego, in a move that angered local medical 
marijuana patients and marijuana advocacy groups, filed a lawsuit in 
December in federal court seeking to overturn the Compassionate Use 
Act, which allows the use of medicinal marijuana.

The supervisors ---- who have collectively opposed the law since it 
was placed on the 1996 ballot ---- argue that it should be 
"pre-empted" by federal law, which says that all marijuana use is 
illegal and that the drug has no medicinal value.

San Diego County lawyers abruptly switched the lawsuit from federal 
to state court in February, as a tactical move in the hopes of 
avoiding the U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which has been more 
friendly to marijuana supporters than to opponents in recent rulings.

County officials have been waiting for the state's response ever 
since, but did not return calls Tuesday.

However, county Counsel John Sansone said Monday that he would not be 
surprised if the state asked for a "demurrer," a motion to throw out 
the county's lawsuit.

San Diego County officials and marijuana advocacy groups say the 
lawsuit is precedent-setting because it marks the first time a county 
has sued to overturn any of the medical marijuana laws approved by 
voters in 11 states.

Barankin, meanwhile, said Tuesday that the attorney general's office 
also filed a motion Tuesday asking the courts to throw out San 
Bernardino County's medical marijuana challenge.

San Bernardino supervisors, in a show of support for San Diego 
County, filed their own lawsuit shortly after San Diego County's action.

San Diego County's board has largely ignored California's medical 
marijuana law since it was passed in 1996, and was actually chastised 
by its own grand jury in 2005 for doing "nothing" to help implement the law.

However, late last year, the state ordered counties to create an 
identification card and registration program to help medical 
marijuana patients ---- and law enforcement officials ---- by clearly 
identifying who could use the drug legally under state law.

But, by a 3-2 vote, with Supervisors Greg Cox and Ron Roberts 
opposed, the board voted in December to defy the state's orders.

Shortly after that, the board voted 4-0, with Roberts absent, to 
actually sue to try to overturn the Compassionate Use Act itself, and 
named the state Department of Health Services and department Director 
Sandra Shewry as defendants.

But the state's motion Tuesday argued that the county artificially 
created an issue for the courts to review the Compassionate Use Act.

"San Diego's political leadership cannot create a ripe controversy by 
threatening to disobey the law," the motion stated.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom