Conflict of Interest?

Conflict of Interest?
Posted by CN Staff on December 14, 2005 at 13:19:06 PT
By Kelly Davis
Source: San Diego City Beat 
San Diego, CA -- A month ago, it was only going to be SB 420, the 2004 state Senate bill that ordered counties to provide ID cards to medical-marijuana patients. What a difference a few weeks makes. On Tuesday, Dec. 6, the San Diego County Board of Supervisors voted to step up their attack on the Senate bill with a concurrent legal challenge that seeks to overturn Proposition 215, also known as the Compassionate Use Act, a 1996, voter-approved initiative that says chronically ill people with a doctor’s recommendation can use marijuana for medicinal purposes. Prop. 215 won by a 12-point margin statewide and even garnered majority support in traditionally conservative San Diego County.
County Counsel John Sansone said his office expects to file the lawsuit in federal court sometime after the first of the year. The lawsuit, Sansone said, will argue that the Controlled Substances Act, the law passed by congress in 1970 that classified marijuana as a Schedule I drug—in the same category as PCP, LSD and the so-called “date-rape” drug, GHB—supercedes any state law that legalizes marijuana for medical use. Schedule I drugs are considered to have no medical value. “The question is whether or not [Prop. 215] is written in such a way that it conflicts with federal law,” Sansone said. “Our argument is going to be that we believe they conflict to the point of crossing the line.” Sansone said he advised the supervisors on the pros and cons of filing such a lawsuit but wouldn’t comment further, citing attorney-client privilege. He said that from the beginning, when the supervisors were only going to challenge SB 420, he’d told them it would be an “uphill battle.” “But we’ve had difficult uphill battles before and won them, and some we’ve lost,” Sansone said, adding that his own staff would handle the case. “Taxpayers aren’t going to pay any more or any less for the attorney staff time.” A spokesperson for the state attorney general’s office, which would be defending the law, declined to comment on the case until she saw the actual complaint. Attorney General Bill Lockyer, however, has supported Prop. 215 in the past, arguing that the Controlled Substances Act is an antiquated law, passed before “the ravages of AIDS.” “States are in, by far, the best position to determine whether and under what circumstances the use of cannabis by seriously ill patients should be permitted,” Lockyer wrote in a 2003 legal brief. Prop. 215 has always been on shaky ground. Poorly defined from its inception and passed on Dan Lungren’s watch—the former state attorney general who vehemently opposed the ballot measure—medical-marijuana supporters and patients have looked to state and local officials to give the law some structure: How much marijuana can an individual possess? How is law enforcement to handle a person possessing or growing marijuana for medical use? And, more importantly, how are people with a doctor’s recommendations supposed to get marijuana when its sale and purchase remains illegal under state law? Cannabis dispensaries are regularly subjected to raids, evident in the Monday afternoon raids of 13 San Diego County dispensaries by a swarm of federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents with the aid of local law enforcement.Please see accompanying story, “It’s ‘Warfare’”: made sure the new law was as narrowly defined as possible, but he never directly sought to overturn it. Dale Gieringer, who heads California NORML (National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws), said Lungren consulted with federal officials and ultimately decided not to challenge the law. “Lungren declared that 215 was constitutional, since states have a right to decide which laws to enforce,” Gieringer said. He added that a subsequent challenge targeting doctors who recommended marijuana to patients (Conant v. Walters) was struck down in federal court in 2002. In 2003, Angel Raich and Diane Monson sued the federal government to block DEA agents from seizing marijuana from qualified patients. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the federal government’s right to do so, but, said Randy Barnett, a Boston University law professor who was on Raich and Monson’s legal team, the ruling in no way affected California’s medical-marijuana laws. The county supervisors’ pending lawsuit will be the first that seeks to kill the Compassionate Use Act wholesale, said Hilary McQuie, spokesperson for American for Safe Access, a national organization that seeks to protect patients’ rights to use marijuana for medicinal purposes. Despite the Bush administration’s opposition to state medical-marijuana laws (10 states currently have such laws), Glenn Smith, a professor at San Diego’s California Western School of Law, said a challenge to a state law must come from within the state. “The federal government can’t bring a lawsuit to stop an unconstitutional state law. It has to be somebody who is affected by that law and injured by it.” Smith said the challenge can’t be based in theory—the supervisors will have to prove someone is, in fact, negatively affected by the law. They could argue, Smith said, that “they’re being required to spend money by this state law in a way that is a waste to taxpayers’ money.” County Supervisor Bill Horn, easily the most vocal critic of medical marijuana, has said that any support for Prop. 215 or SB 420 would send the wrong message, especially to kids. He went so far as to compare the supervisors’ stand against medical-marijuana laws to Rosa Parks’ stand against segregation laws. In June, however, the county grand jury slammed the supervisors for failing to implement SB 420, saying the board had been “blinded by its prejudices against medical marijuana.” “These people are not in the times; they’re living in the Reefer Madness days,” said Mark Bluemel, a San Diego attorney who’s worked on medical-marijuana cases, including that of Steve McWilliams. McWilliams, perhaps San Diego’s most outspoken proponent of medical marijuana, committed suicide in July after a federal judge, under terms of McWilliams’ bail, denied him the ability to use marijuana. McWilliams was severely injured in a 1992 motorcycle accident that left him with chronic migraines and neck pain. He was arrested by DEA agents in 2002 and charged with growing 25 marijuana plants in his backyard, some of which belonged to his partner, Barbara MacKenzie, who suffers from degenerative spinal disorder. Marijuana Policy Project spokesperson Bruce Merkin said that even though the Raich ruling said state medical-marijuana laws don’t offer protection from federal prosecution, “that’s a very different thing from saying states are obligated to enforce federal medical-marijuana laws. “So far as we can tell, the county is whistling in the dark,” Merkin said of the challenge to Prop. 215. “But I think the bigger question is why the county supervisors think that they should defy the will of their own voters? “We have cases that date back to the fugitive slave law,” he said, “back to the pre-Civil War days in which there were disputes over whether states… had to carry out federal statutes, and it’s always been very clear that they don’t. State and local laws can go in opposite directions.” Barnett, the Boston law professor, called the supervisors’ argument “frivolous.” “No federal court would sustain it,” he said, “and I would ask for sanctions against anyone who raised it.” Note: A look at the county’s assault on California’s medical-marijuana law.Source: San Diego City Beat (CA)Author: Kelly Davis Published: December 14, 2005Copyright: 2005 San Diego City BeatContact: editor sdcitybeat.comWebsite: Articles & Web Sites:MPP NORML For Safe Access It's 'Warfare' Medi-Pot Activists Mad as Hell Served After Drug Bought To Sue over Prop. 215 in Federal Court
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Comment #6 posted by afterburner on December 15, 2005 at 20:29:12 PT
Time to Recall
San Diego's Supervisors are out-of-control and deserve the same fate as California ex-Governor Mr. Gray Davis.Recall: the third leg of populist government. Use it where you can.
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Comment #5 posted by FoM on December 15, 2005 at 07:36:28 PT
Press Release from The Drug Policy Alliance
Another Attack on Medical Marjiuana in San Diego***Thursday, December 15, 2005Thirteen medical marijuana dispensaries in San Diego County were raided Monday by county and federal officials.Federal drug enforcement agents, county sheriffs and city police broke down doors and waved guns at medical marijuana patients and dispensary operators, flouting the nearly 10-year-old state law. The seizure of thousands of patient records in the raids also violated patients’ rights to confidentiality.The raids came shortly after a County Board of Supervisors vote last week to sue the state to strike down Proposition 215, the 1996 voter-approved ballot initiative that gives patients in California the right to use marijuana for medical purposes with a doctor’s recommendation. The initiative was passed by a majority of voters in San Diego County.“The County Board of Supervisors has decided to use taxpayer money to sue the taxpayers. They are out of touch and out of control,” said Margaret Dooley of the Drug Policy Alliance in San Diego. “The raids are just the next step in a systematic effort to deprive patients of their right to medical marijuana in San Diego County.”“The county terrorized patients yesterday,” said Alberto Mendoza, director of the Southern California Office of the Drug Policy Alliance. “One terrible result of the raids will be to force sick and dying patients to buy their medicine on the black market, which can be a dangerous and unreliable alternative.”Amid the bullying of medical marijuana users in San Diego, other parts of the state are actually working to support Prop 215. Riverside County in southern California just began implementation of the state ID card program, which is designed to help protect patients from prosecution by local and state officials. San Francisco, which delayed implementation of the program in order to sort out privacy concerns, has announced that it will start issuing ID cards on January 9, 2006.In contrast, San Diego's leaders remain tragically out of step with the rest of the state and with the voters.
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Comment #4 posted by Toker00 on December 15, 2005 at 02:23:14 PT
Get it Right
Angel Raich/Diane Monson/Rosa ParksSan Diego Supervisors/DEA/Johnny Pee/Harry AnslingerWage peace on war. END CANNABIS PROHIBITION NOW!
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Comment #3 posted by John Tyler on December 14, 2005 at 20:58:35 PT
change the supervisors
Time to vote these county supervisors out of office at the very next election.
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Comment #2 posted by runruff on December 14, 2005 at 18:20:09 PT:
ROSA PARKS!!!!!!!!!
No dear, that was not a bomb exploding in front of the computer, That was me!ROSA PARKS!  Pardon my while I COMPARE MYSELF TO JESUS!God only know it is good that my hands are nowhere near that mans throat right now. 
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Comment #1 posted by kaptinemo on December 14, 2005 at 15:22:34 PT:
'Sanctions'? I'd ask for heads!
And for that 'supervisor' to compare himself and his shutterbrained and woefully anachronistic pals to Rosa Parks is enough to make the strongest stomachs gag. Just WHAT injustices are they suffering opposed to those experienced, daily, by the ones who need the herb to survive? The litany of abuses committed against cannabists begins with the verbal kind and escalates all the way to police-dispensed murder(!). What wimpy, benighted county supervisor faces *that*, daily, huh?They dig their political graves with each new utterance; somebody better clue them in about 'taking the Fifth' soon. 
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