National Groups Pledge Immediate Legal Action Against San Diego and Other Counties For Refusing to Follow California’s Medical Marijuana Law

Press Release June 8, 2006
Media Contact

Tony Newman at (646) 335-5384

SAN DIEGO – Three national groups that advocate on behalf of medical marijuana patients and their doctors announced today that they would take immediate legal action against San Diego, San Bernardino and Merced counties for their refusal to comply with California’s Compassionate Use Act, which protects medical marijuana patients from arrest and prosecution.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and the Drug Policy Alliance (the Alliance) made their announcement after Judge William R. Nevitt of the San Diego County Superior Court ruled today that a lawsuit filed by San Diego and San Bernardino counties challenging California’s medical marijuana laws can go forward.

“Seriously ill people should have the security of knowing that in California they are safe, that California has charted a different course from the federal government’s inhumane willingness to put them in jail simply for accessing the medicine they need,” said Joe Elford, Chief Counsel for ASA.

“It’s disgraceful that medical marijuana patients in three California counties are being denied healing medical treatment and legal rights and protections merely because of where they live,” said Kevin Keenan, Executive Director of the ACLU of San Diego and Imperial Counties. “We look forward to aggressively defending the rights of all California patients and their doctors in this matter.”

Margaret Dooley of the Alliance added, “Complying with the law is not optional. It’s an obligation. Carrying out the laws enacted by the people of this state is one of the highest duties of any local government. San Diego, San Bernardino and Merced Counties have clearly reneged on that duty, and we plan to see them in court.”

After the San Diego County Board of Supervisors experienced intense political pressure to begin issuing identification cards to medical marijuana patients, as required by the Compassionate Use Act, it filed a lawsuit in January 2006 asking a federal court to determine whether the County was required to comply with state laws that protect medical marijuana patients even though federal law prohibits all use of marijuana. The ACLU, ASA and the Alliance filed papers with the Court, citing long-standing law establishing that the County did not have standing to sue the State in federal court. The County immediately withdrew its federal lawsuit.

San Diego County re-filed suit in state court in February. San Bernardino and Merced Counties, each refusing to issue identification cards to medical marijuana patients, have also joined the lawsuit.

The case is County of San Diego v. San Diego NORML, et al, case no. GIC860665

Background information on the case, including legal papers filed by the ACLU, ASA and the Alliance to intervene in the lawsuit San Diego County filed in federal court, are available here.

Visit Americans for Safe Access for more information.

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

Sign up for updates from DPA.