U.S. Supreme Court Lets Decision Upholding California

Press Release May 20, 2009
Media Contact

Stephen Gutwillig at (323) 542-2606 or Tommy McDonald

The U.S. Supreme Court ended debate Monday about the right of states to enact marijuana laws that differ from federal marijuana policies. Without comment, the high court denied an appeal by two California counties that refused to implement the state’s medical marijuana laws. San Diego and San Bernardino counties had challenged SB 420, legislation requiring them to issue identification cards that protect medical marijuana patients from arrest by state or local police for possessing small amounts of marijuana for medical use.

“There is no longer any question that California officials must comply with state medical marijuana laws, that they can’t use federal law as an excuse to subvert the will of the voters and the legislature,” said Daniel Abrahamson, director of legal affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “As a result, stonewalling by a handful of hold-out counties will end, and medical marijuana patients statewide will receive the protections they are entitled to.”

Furthermore, the Supreme Court’s action clears the way for states to legalize non-medical use of marijuana despite the federal prohibition on marijuana. Such proposals are under increasing consideration in California and nationwide. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recently endorsed debate on marijuana legalization, the highest-profile U.S. elected official to do so.

“The U.S. Supreme court is reaffirming a basic principle of our democracy that states can establish and enforce drug laws that don’t conform to federal law,” said Stephen Gutwillig, California state director of the Drug Policy Alliance. “The Supreme Court’s action sets the stage for California to end decades of wasteful and ineffective marijuana laws that ensnare tens of thousands of people every year. Federal prohibition is no obstacle to eliminating California’s arcane pot laws.”

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

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