San Diego, CA: A Superior Court judge has issued a tentative ruling rejecting a lawsuit filed by San Diego County supervisors which argued that the state’s medical cannabis laws should be pre-empted by the federal Controlled Substances Act.
In his tentative opinion, Superior Court Judge William Nevitt, declared that California’s medical marijuana laws could not be pre-empted by US Controlled Substances Act because they did not “require” state citizens to violate federal law. Nevitt further determined that California’s statutes do not impede government officials from enforcing federal anti-drug laws.
In 2004, the California legislature amended the state’s ten-year-old medical marijuana law by requiring counties to issue identification cards to state-authorized patients. San Diego supervisors filed suit against the state of California and NORML’s San Diego affiliate earlier this year rather than comply with the 2004 law. Local governments from San Bernardino and Merced Counties later joined the suit.
“[R]equiring 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,]” Judge Nevitt wrote.
Jeremy Blank, attorney for San Diego NORML, called the judge’s tentative ruling encouraging. “If it is affirmed then I think it will be a great victory, not only for patients and doctors, but also for the voters of the state of California and the legislature of California,” he said. Judge Nevitt has up to 90 days before issuing his final ruling. Prior to the passage of Prop. 215 which exempts authorized patients from state criminal prosecution for the possession and use of medicinal cannabis California’s Legislative Counsel determined that the measure would not be in conflict with federal law because it would only “declassify” pot possession “as a crime for the purpose of state law and would not affirmatively sanction [this] act.”
San Diego’s lawsuit is the first-ever legal challenge to California’s medical cannabis laws.
For more information, please contact Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel, at (202) 483-5500. Additional information on the San Diego lawsuit and Judge William Nevitt’s tentative decision is available on the November 20, 2006 edition of NORML’s Daily AudioStash.