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Pot Ruling Gets a Test


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Citing a conflict between state and federal medical marijuana laws, San Bernardino County is asking an appellate court to reject a ruling that upholds California's law legalizing marijuana use by the chronically ill.

Attorneys from San Bernardino and San Diego counties filed papers Friday asking the Fourth District Court of Appeal to reject a ruling that upheld medical marijuana guidelines following the passage of Proposition 215. They contend that counties should not adhere to state laws that are weaker than federal laws.

Californians voted for the initiative in 1996 that requires counties to issue medical marijuana cards allowing chronically ill patients to grow and smoke the drug. But the state law is in conflict with federal law, which considers marijuana an illicit drug, according to the counties.

David Wert, San Bernardino County spokesman, said the goal of the appeal is not to overturn Proposition 215, but to get clarity in the law.

"People who have medical marijuana cards have been arrested for doing what state law allows them to do," Wert said. "It's not just a problem for law enforcement but for people who are using marijuana for medicinal purposes."

Officials say counties are in a sticky situation because Proposition 215 requires counties to issue medical marijuana identification cards, but the cards in no way shield users from federal prosecution.

Wert said San Bernardino County has avoided the problem by not issuing the cards.

"Both sides of this debate have a lot of empathy for people who are genuinely sick, who use medical marijuana," Wert said. "But there's nothing more inhuman than to imply to people in that situation that if they have a card, they're safe from prosecution."

A system issuing the cards is in place in Los Angeles and Riverside counties. But the cards sometimes mean little to local or federal law enforcement.

The San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department does not recognize medical marijuana cards.

"We are upholding federal law," said sheriff's spokeswoman Arden Wiltshire. "The sheriff believes the federal law supersedes state law."

However, the identification cards are a defense medical marijuana users can use in court, said Alan Hostetter, deputy police chief in Fontana.

"( The cards ) do not preclude law enforcement officers from arresting them," he said. "It's not a 'get out of jail free' card."

Hostetter said many medical marijuana users think the cards shield them from arrest and prosecution.

"It'd be very helpful if state and federal laws weren't conflicting," he said.

Source: Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (Ontario, CA)
Copyright: 2008 Los Angeles Newspaper Group
Contact: letters@dailybulletin.com
Website: Home - DailyBulletin.com


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the constitution specifically states that powers not given the federal government are reserved to states and indiduals
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