Judge Rejects San Diego's Challenge to Prop. 215

San Diego, Dec 6th, 2006. Superior Court judge William Nevitt, Jr. rejected a lawsuit filed by San Diego County supervisors challenging the state's medical marijuana law, Prop. 215, and the patient ID card system established under state bill SB 420. The San Diego lawsuit, which was joined by San Bernardino and Merced counties, argued that counties could not be required to establish the ID card system because to do so would violate federal law.

In his opinion, Judge Nevitt reafffirmed a preliminary ruling of Nov. 16th, in which he ruled that Prop 215 did not create a "positive conflict" with federal law. The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that states aren't obliged to enforce federal laws. However, Nevitt noted that California's statues do not prevent law enforcement officers from arresting offenders under federal anti-drug laws.

"We are pleased that the court upheld California's medical marijuana law," said California coordinator Dale Gieringer, one of the organizers of Prop. 215. "San Diego county would be well advised to stop wasting taxpayers' money on this ill-advised lawsuit. The ID cards will save the county money by avoiding needless arrest and prosecution of patients."

San Diego county officials had no immediate comment on the decision. County counsel Thomas Bunton said no decision had been made on whether to appeal.

The ruling had no direct bearing on whether the county should allow medical cannabis coops and collectives to re-open. The county raided and closed its medical cannabis outlets earlier this year. The District Attorney's office maintains that sales of medical cannabis are illegal. The D.A.'s office has indicated that it won't change its position unless the city or county legislate to establish a regulated distribution system.

San Diego filed suit after San Diego NORML threatened to sue the county for failing to implement the state ID card program mandated under SB 420. In return, the county sued the state and San Diego NORML. The ACLU, Americans for Safe Access and the Drug Policy Alliance joined as patient intervenors against the county.

In his decision, Judge Nevitt wrote, "Requiring the counties to issue identification cards for the purpose of identifying those whom California chooses not to arrest and prosecute for certain activities involving marijuana does not create a 'positive conflict' [with federal law]."

Text of Judge Nevitt's decision

(NORML Release Dec. 7, 2006)

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