Pubdate: Wed, 22 Oct 2008
Source: Orange County Register, The (CA)
Copyright: 2008 The Orange County Register
Bookmark: (Cannabis - California)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal


The County Should Drop Its Legal Attack On Medical-Marijuana ID Law

The California Supreme Court has declined to review a landmark law 
that requires counties to implement a medical marijuana patient 
identification program. The court's decision also makes it clear that 
the federal prohibition on marijuana does not preempt the medical 
marijuana law California voters approved in 1996.

The 1996 law carved out exceptions to California's anti-marijuana 
laws for patients with a valid recommendation from a licensed 
physician. In 2005 the Legislature passed Senate Bill 420, which, 
among other things, required counties to screen patients for a 
voluntary state ID card system for patients to help police identify 
bona fide patients.

San Diego County, along with Merced and San Bernardino counties, sued 
the state in 2006, arguing not only that it should not be required to 
screen patients applying for identifications cards, but that federal 
law preempts state law and that California's medical marijuana law 
should be declared invalid.

A San Diego Superior Court judge rejected that argument in December 
2006, after which Merced County opted out of the litigation and moved 
to set up a patient ID card system. The Fourth District Court of 
Appeal also rejected it in July of this year. The decision by the 
state Supreme Court not to review it means counties must set up an ID 
card program and, perhaps most importantly, as Joe Elford, chief 
council of Americans for Safe Access, noted, makes it clear "that 
federal law does not preempt state law relating to medical marijuana."

San Diego County has vowed to take the issue all the way to the U.S. 
Supreme Court. It is likely to have a steep hill to climb. The high 
court has had several medical marijuana cases before it and has opted 
not to invoke federal supremacy to invalidate the medical marijuana 
laws of California and the 11 other states. In addition, there is no 
disagreement among federal circuits that would require resolution by 
the U.S. Supreme Court.

San Diego County would be better off not to spend taxpayers' money 
pursuing this inversion of the federalist principle that is so 
central to the U.S. Constitution. The Constitution gives only certain 
enumerated powers to the national government and reserves all other 
rights and powers to the states and the people.

It has been 12 years since the people voted to allow sick people to 
use marijuana, and all subsequent polls suggest there is no chance 
they would reverse their decision. For San Diego County to try to do 
so through judicial fiat by bolstering the power of the central 
government and reducing the flexibility allowed to the states by the 
U.S. Constitution is repugnant.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom