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County in Medical Pot Debate

BluntKilla

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An attorney battling Merced County in a lawsuit that could determine medical marijuana laws in California said the county's opposition to the use of the drug is a "broadside attack on state laws."
Joe Elford, the top attorney with Americans for Safe Access, made his remarks a week after attorneys for Merced County issued a legal brief that said "marijuana is a substance with no recognized medical use" and that "the possession or use of marijuana is a crime."

The debate centers on a lawsuit in San Diego Superior Court that challenges the state's decade-old law allowing the use of medical marijuana.

San Diego, San Bernardino and Merced counties also seek to overturn a state law approved in 2003 that requires counties to provide ID cards to medical marijuana patients.

The lawsuit has a good chance of ending up at the California Supreme Court, attorneys on both sides said.

Merced County supervisors voted unanimously to join the lawsuit in June after Grant Wilson, a user of medical marijuana, pestered the supervisors to issue him an ID card that would protect him from being arrested.

The county argues that requiring counties to issue cards violates the state's constitution.

The county said in its brief filed last week that Proposition 215, which voters approved in 1996 to legalize medical marijuana, never was intended to be amended by the Legislature.

The ID cards requirement was "neither voted for nor likely anticipated by the California electorate" when Proposition 215 was approved, the brief argues.

But Elford said ID cards are "in no way repugnant to the will of the voters who passed Proposition 215" and should not be shot down.

Teresa Schilling, a spokes-woman for the state attorney general's office — which is fighting against Merced County in the lawsuit — said the Legislature "has the power and authority to develop regulations to implement the law."

Most of the debate, however, centers around whether Proposition 215 is superseded by federal laws that have declared marijuana illegal since the 1960s.

Elford said states should remain autonomous and be allowed to experiment with policies.

"History is replete with examples of why the federalist system is a good thing," he said. "If it's a bad idea, then the state will pull the plug and we'd all learn a lesson."

But Merced County attorneys cite a U.S. Supreme Court decision last year dealing with medical marijuana laws that said that "if there is any conflict between federal and state law, federal law shall prevail."

Unlike San Diego County, where three out of five supervisors oppose the use of medical marijuana, at least three of the five supervisors in Merced County favor laws that give patients access to marijuana.

Only Supervisor Mike Nelson has said he opposes Proposition 215. Supervisor John Pedrozo has not said where he stands on the issue.

Supervisors say they voted to join the lawsuit to overturn the laws because they wanted to know whether they should follow federal and state guidelines. Most said they didn't necessar-ily want to see Proposition 215 overturned.

Merced County attorneys said the only way the county could get that clarification is if they joined the suit.

Newshawk: BluntKilla - 420 Magazine
Source: The Modesto Bee
Pubdate: September 12, 2006
Author: Chris Collins
Copyright: 2006 The Modesto Bee
Contact: metro@modbee.com
Website: Modbee.com | Modesto & Central Valley News, Jobs, Cars, Homes and more.
 
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