Oral Arguments Heard in Appeal of San Diego v. NORML
by Joe Elford, ASA Chief Counsel
On June 10, 2008, the Court of Appeal for the Fourth Appellate District heard oral argument in the case of San Diego v. NORML, et al. The case pits the Counties of San Diego and San Bernardino against the State of California, Americans for Safe Access, the ACLU Drug Policy Reform Project, and other medical marijuana patients and advocates. The Counties are contending that California’s medical marijuana laws, in particular its medical marijuana identification card program, are preempted by federal law. Also, San Bernardino contends that SB420, which was enacted by the Legislature in 2003, represents an unconstitutional amendment of the Compassionate Use Act, which is a voter-approved initiative. ASA’s side prevailed at the Superior Court.
At the oral argument, television cameras were permitted in the courtroom to record the proceedings, which the Presiding Justice described as very unusual. The courtroom was packed, so the court had to create an overflow room where onlookers could watch the proceedings on closed-circuit television. The justices asked several questions of the Counties, but very few of ASA’s side — none to ASA or the ACLU. Five attorneys argued — one from each of the Counties; a Deputy Attorney General for the State; Joe Elford, Chief Counsel, for Americans for Safe Access and the patient-intervenors; and Adam Wolf of the ACLU for NORML and other intervenors. A decision is expected within 90 days.
Please read an extensive report on the hearing and a follow up community meeting at Hope Unlimited’s site.
Drew Carey Releases Video on DEA Raids & Medical Marijuana Use by Minors
This week, reason.tv released its second video on medical marijuana, featuring Drew Carey talking about one young man’s battle with cancer and use of medical marijuana. While his parents approved of his medicine, the DEA did not and shut down his local dispensary:
Owen’s parents knew the idea of giving medical marijuana to a 17-year-old strikes many people as scandalous. Local Sheriff Pat Hedges even asserts that allowing medical marijuana is “not in the best interest of a community that prides itself on providing a healthy, family environment.”
But the Becks weren’t concerned about what other people thought; they were focused on helping their son. So with a written doctor recommendation in hand, they purchased medical marijuana for their teenage son. The new medication eased Owen’s pain and nausea like nothing else had, and the Becks grew fond of Charlie Lynch, who would sometimes refuse payment because, says Steve Beck, “He was just a compassionate kind of a guy.”
But one day, Owen’s life took another abrupt turn. Federal agents and local sheriff deputies raided Charlie Lynch’s dispensary, and seized nearly everything inside, including Owen’s medicine. “He had a prescription from a doctor at Stanford, and they took his stuff!” says Debbie Beck. Federal agents cuffed Lynch, and put him behind bars. Even though state and local laws allow for it, medical marijuana is still illegal under federal law. And because he had clients like Owen who were under age 21, Charlie Lynch faces heightened penalties. In California the average first-degree murder serves 20 years behind bars; Charlie Lynch could face a sentence as long as 100 years in prison.
To read more and to watch this video, please visit ASA’s blog post about the video.
Local Medical Marijuana Regulation Updates: Alameda, Del Norte & San Francisco
Alameda County Delays Hearing on Dispensary Regulations
On Tuesday, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors was scheduled to discuss amendments to the county’s dispensary ordinance. Some of the proposed amendments would have greatly limited access in the county, including a provision that would have banned the provision of edibles and some types of concentrated cannabis at dispensaries.
ASA, Berkeley Patients’ Group, Harborside, and We Are Hemp did outreach to Alameda County residents and approximately twenty patients and supporters attended the hearing to speak out in support of safe access. The hearing was delayed until July 8th, giving advocates more time to work with the County Health Department to protect edibles. Thanks to everyone who came to the hearing – we hope to see you all there again on July 8th!
Del Norte County Set to Remove Medical Marijuana Cultivation & Possession Limits
On Tuesday, the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors considered revising its medical marijuana ordinance, reducing cultivation limits from 99 plants to the state limits of 6 mature plants or 12 immature plants. However, in the wake of the recent ruling in People v. Kelly, which ruled the state limits to be unconstitutional, the supervisors scrapped this plan.
Instead, they are proposing an ordinance that would completely remove county limits on medical marijuana cultivation and possession. This plan is still being opposed by patient advocates though, as reported in The Daily Triplicate:
“It’s got a good side and it’s got a bad side,” said Michael McCauley, local chapter coordinator for Americans for Safe Access Now, an advocacy group for medical marijuana.
He said the new ordinance, if approved, gives law enforcement too much discretion in determining what is an appropriate amount of medical marijuana for a patient to have.
“I think it places the reasonableness on local sheriffs and law enforcement,” McCauley said, adding there needs to be some sort of guidelines to ensure the safety of the patients.
“They need to have standards to go by and they need to work with the patient community to come up with those standards,” McCauley said. “They don’t need to arrest sick people.”
Visit The Daily Triplicate to read their full story.
More Than Two Years After Regulations Pass, First Storefront Dispensary Permit Issued in San Francisco
This week, Sanctuary became the first storefront dispensary in San Francisco to receive a permit from the city. Though dispensary regulations have been in place for more than two years, the permitting process has moved slowly, as dispensaries had to be approved by several city departments. Many dispensaries have invested tens of thousands of dollars to pay for the application fees and to renovate their facilities to bring them into compliance with the ordinance.
Twenty five San Francisco dispensaries have applied for permits and are at various stages in the process. Recently, the Board of Supervisors extended the deadline for obtaining a permit to January 2009. Though Sanctuary is the first storefront dispensary to receive a permit, The Green Cross Delivery Service received a permit from the city last year.
Read more about this story in the San Francisco Examiner.