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Calif. Patrol Sued for Seizing Medical Pot February 16, 2005 newsday.com
BERKELEY, Calif. -- Medical marijuana advocates filed a lawsuit Tuesday demanding California Highway Patrol officers stop confiscating pot from authorized users.
The lawsuit is the latest salvo in the long-running debate over medical marijuana in California, approved by voters in 1996, opposed by federal authorities ever since and applied unevenly all over the state.
The lawsuit against the highway patrol -- which also names Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and Attorney General Bill Lockyer -- says CHP's "rigid policy" of seizing medical marijuana "causes law abiding citizens to suffer pain, humiliation, loss of dignity, extreme anxiety and a fear of the police."
"It's been more than eight years since California voters approved the right to use marijuana medically and since that time law enforcement has resisted upholding that right," said Kris Hermes, legal director of Americans for Safe Access, the Berkeley-based group bringing the lawsuit. "While this resistance is pretty widespread across California, CHP are the worst violators by far."
The lawsuit seeks a court order stopping the CHP from seizing marijuana from legitimate patients.
"It's like someone being pulled over and getting their Motrin taken away that they use to relieve their pain," Hermes said.
At CHP headquarters in Sacramento, spokesman Tom Marshall said department officials have not seen the lawsuit and had no comment. But he said a doctor's note alone prescribing pot isn't enough.
Hermes disagreed: "The law states quite explicitly that a qualified patient is someone who presents a recommendation from their physician or a voluntary identification card."
Marshall said the agency is waiting for state health officials to issue user ID cards. Department of Health Services spokeswoman Norma Arceo said officials hope to have a statewide system by year's end.
The governor's office referred calls to the CHP. A Lockyer spokesman said he had not seen the lawsuit and had no comment.