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Santa Barbara Loses Legal Effort To Dump Pot Law

Cozmo

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A judge on Tuesday threw out a City Council challenge to a voter initiative that made busting adults for marijuana crimes the lowest priority for police.

Superior Court Judge Thomas Anderle dismissed a lawsuit the city filed against Heather Poet, who sponsored the initiative passed last November.

“It was terrifying to be sued by my own government, and for a fleeting moment it made me feel maybe I shouldn't have gotten involved in the democratic process,” Poet said in a statement.

“But this decision proves we do have a voice and we should never be afraid to use it,” she said.

Measure P said that investigating, citing, arresting and prosecuting people for adult marijuana offenses – except for using pot in public or while driving – was the “lowest law enforcement priority” in the city.

The city argued that the measure was invalid and would prohibit enforcement of state and federal drug laws.

The judge disagreed, calling Measure P “a proper legislative enactment.”

“Police officers can still arrest those who violate drug possession laws in their presence. The voters have simply instructed them that they have higher priority work to do,” the judge wrote.

Anderle said there was nothing in the law prohibiting enforcement of state law and added that the city “is free to decline to enforce federal criminal statutes.”

The court also struck down the city's lawsuit on grounds that Poet was being sued for exercising her constitutionally protected right of free speech as an initiative sponsor.

It is the “duty of courts to jealously guard the people's right of initiative and referendum,” the ruling said, citing language from a 1984 case.

Adam Wolf, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union Drug Law Reform Project, which represented Poet, said the ruling was a major victory for the democratic process and a resounding affirmation of voters' right to de-prioritize marijuana enforcement.

City Attorney Stephen Wiley said the city has instituted the measures contained in the ordinance and only sued to clarify its legality.

“We still think there's a chance this is pre-empted by state and federal law but ... the judge didn't see it that way,” Wiley said.

The City Council will decide whether to appeal the decision, he said.

“It's not unusual for initiative measures, particularly local initiatives” to go to a court, Wiley added. “There's a lot of cases out there.”


News Mod: CoZmO - 420 Magazine
Source: SignOnSanDiego.com
Author: ASSOCIATED PRESS
Contact: info@ap.org
Copyright: 2007 Union-Tribune Publishing Co.
Website: SignOnSanDiego.com
 
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Ronnie

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Court Upholds Law Making Marijuana Santa Barbara’s Lowest Law Enforcement Priority

"Measure P is a proper legislative enactment," Court Rules

SANTA BARBARA, CA - The American Civil Liberties Union applauded today’s ruling by a California Superior Court judge to uphold a voter-enacted initiative that directs police to focus resources on serious crime by making marijuana use the lowest law enforcement priority. Citing California’s ban on lawsuits that punish public participation in the political process, the court dismissed the city of Santa Barbara’s challenge of the law, known as Measure P, which was brought against Heather Poet because she was the proponent of the challenged initiative.

"Today’s ruling is a major victory for the democratic process and a resounding affirmation of voters’ right to de-prioritize marijuana enforcement," said Adam Wolf, an attorney with the ACLU Drug Law Reform Project, which represented Poet in the proceedings. "The people of Santa Barbara would rather local law enforcement focus on combating serious crime than policing marijuana use. Today’s ruling confirms that the voters can make this fundamentally local decision about their community’s safety."

In addition to finding that the city of Santa Barbara’s suit against Poet arose from "her constitutional right to participate in the process of formulating laws" and ran afoul of California’s ban on strategic lawsuits against public participation ("SLAPP"), the court held that neither state nor federal law precludes localities like Santa Barbara from prioritizing the enforcement of certain criminal offenses, including the de-prioritization of marijuana offenses.

As the ruling states, "Nothing in [Measure P] prohibits enforcement of state law…Police officers can still arrest those who violate drug possession laws in their presence. The voters have simply instructed them that they have higher priority work to do."

"Santa Barbara is free to decline to enforce federal criminal statutes," the ruling continues. "Indeed, the Tenth Amendment to the United States Constitution prohibits the federal government from impressing ‘into its service - and at no cost to itself - the police officers of the 50 States.’"

Measure P was passed on November 7, 2006 by over 65 percent of the electorate. Designed to free law enforcement resources to better address violent and serious crime, Measure P makes "investigations, citations, arrests, property seizures, and prosecutions for adult marijuana offenses, where the marijuana was intended for adult personal use, the city of Santa Barbara’s lowest law enforcement priority." The measure does not de-prioritize marijuana offenses related to public use or driving under the influence.


"It was terrifying to be sued by my own government, and for a fleeting moment it made me feel maybe I shouldn’t have gotten involved in the democratic process," said Poet. "But this decision proves we do have a voice and we should never be afraid to use it. It also affirms that people in Santa Barbara, and throughout America, can protect their communities by having police focus on serious crime, rather than marijuana offenses."

Santa Barbara is not alone in enacting its lowest law enforcement priority ordinance. Since 2000, at least 11 cities and counties, including seven in California, have enacted legislation treating certain marijuana offenses as a low or the lowest law enforcement priority.

Today’s ruling, issued by Judge Thomas Anderle of the California Superior Court in Santa Barbara, is online at: American Civil Liberties Union : Santa Barbara v. Poet - Final Ruling

The ACLU’s motion calling for a dismissal of the city of Santa Barbara’s lawsuit is available at: American Civil Liberties Union : Santa Barbara v. Poet - (Anti-SLAPP) Motion to Strike

The full text of the Measure P initiative is available online at: Sensible Santa Barbara


newshawk: drboomhauer 420magazine
source:ACLU
contact: media@aclu.org
copyright: © ACLU, 125 Broad Street, 18th Floor New York, NY 10004
website: American Civil Liberties Union : Court Upholds Law Making Marijuana Santa Barbara’s Lowest Law Enforcement Priority
 
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Pinch

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This is wonderful news. Supreme Courts are the best!
 
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