Tuesday, July 18, 2006

ACLU Seeks to Intervene in Suit Challenging Medical Marijuana Use

Metropolitan News

The American Civil Liberties Union, Drug Policy Alliance and Americans for Safe Access moved Friday to be allowed to intervene in a state lawsuit brought by three California counties seeking to overturn Proposition 215, the alliance said Friday in a release.

Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act — which allows medical use of marijuana upon a doctor’s recommendation — was passed by California voters in 1996.

In the lawsuit, the counties of San Diego, San Bernardino and Merced sued the state and others, claiming that federal laws prohibiting marijuana use preempt state laws such as Proposition 215.

The suit cites the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause and a 1961 U.S. treaty with 150 other nations outlawing marijuana.

The suit also challenges the state’s Medical Marijuana Program Act, which provides for an identification card program that would allow police to identify legitimate medical marijuana patients.

The groups believe Proposition 215 is not preempted by federal law and seek an order requiring San Diego County to begin issuing medical marijuana identification cards.

Daniel Abrahamson, director of legal affairs for the alliance, said in the release,
“We are confident the court will require the state’s medical marijuana program to be implemented in San Diego, as required by law. Renegade politicians in San Diego are simply postponing the inevitable, while thousands of sick people suffer.”

The groups seek to intervene to represent medical marijuana patients, patients’ groups, caregivers and doctors. “Our motion to intervene will allow the court to recognize the harm done to patients by the county’s frivolous lawsuit,” Abrahamson said.

Wendy Christakes, a medical marijuana user represented by the groups, said in the release, “The county supervisors are playing politics while we struggle to survive. They should be ashamed.”

The groups also represent Dr. Stephen O’Brien, a physician who specializes in HIV/AIDS treatment in Oakland and believes that many of his seriously ill patients benefit from marijuana use, the release said.

San Diego County originally filed the lawsuit in federal court this January, but dismissed it and refiled, along with the other counties, in state court in February.

Last month San Diego Superior Court Judge William R. Nevitt Jr. rejected the State’s contention that counties are precluded from challenging state law, and allowed the case to proceed.

The Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy Project has reported that a January poll of San Diego County voters conducted by Evans/McDonough Company, Inc. showed that 67 percent said they support Proposition 215, while only 30 percent said they oppose it, and 80 percent agreed that the suit “is wasting taxpayers’ money.”

California is one of 11 states which allows the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.

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