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Calif. Suspends Medical Marijuana Plan July 8, 2005 - Wired News
SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- California health officials suspended a program Friday that had begun providing patients who smoke marijuana for medicinal reasons with state-issued identification cards.
State Health Director Sandra Shewry has asked the state attorney general's office to review a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling to determine whether the ID program would put patients and state employees at risk of federal prosecution.
"I am concerned about unintended potential consequences of issuing medical marijuana ID cards that could affect medical marijuana users, their families and staff of the California Department of Health Services," Shewry said.
Last month, the Supreme Court said in a 6-3 decision that people who smoke marijuana because their doctors recommend it to ease pain or other conditions can be prosecuted for violating federal drug laws.
The ruling did not strike down laws in California and nine other states that permit medical cannabis use, but it said federal drug laws take precedence.
A spokeswoman for Attorney General Bill Lockyer said his office would review the health department's request.
Complying with a state mandate that lawmakers passed after California voters approved a medical marijuana law in 1996, the state health department in May launched a pilot pot card program in three Northern California counties.
One purpose of the cards is to give medical pot users a way to show they have a legitimate reason for possessing pot if they are stopped by law enforcement. So far, cards have been issued to 123 people under the pilot program, which was due to expand statewide on Aug. 1.
Other counties and cities that issue their own medical marijuana ID cards to local residents, such as San Francisco, Santa Barbara and Santa Cruz, are unaffected by the state's action.
ACLU and Drug Policy Alliance Threaten to Sue Schwarzenegger for Suspending California's Medical Marijuana Law July 12, 2005 - aclu.org
Governor Must Reverse Illegal Denial of Medical Marijuana Cards to Patients or Face Lawsuit
SACRAMENTO - The American Civil Liberties Union and the Drug Policy Alliance threatened today to sue the Schwarzenegger administration unless it reverses its illegal suspension of California's Medical Marijuana Program.
"Governor Schwarzenegger took an oath of office to uphold state laws, not hijack them," said Allen Hopper, an attorney with the ACLU Drug Law Reform Project. "California voters and the legislature have rejected the federal war on medical marijuana patients, and the governor must respect that judgment."
Governor Schwarzenegger's Director of Health Services halted the program last Friday, blocking medical marijuana patients from obtaining registration cards to which they are entitled under California law. The governor's action came on the eve of the program's scheduled expansion from a four-county pilot program to a statewide system designed to protect patients from arrest and seizure of their medicine.
In shutting down the program, Director of Health Services Sandra Shewry claimed the need for the state attorney general to confirm that state and county employees who continue to issue cards would not be subject to prosecution by federal authorities. The ACLU and the Drug Policy Alliance (The Alliance) rejected this rationale as groundless. In a letter to the Director of Health Services today, the ACLU and the Alliance pointed out that state attorney general, Bill Lockyer, has already made clear in one of many recent bulletins on the issue that state officials "may not refuse to abide by the provisions of the Compassionate Use Act on the basis that this Act conflicts with federal law." The letter further explained that the state constitution and the state's highest court explicitly prohibit the Governor from ignoring state law, even if he believes it conflicts with federal law.
The ACLU and the Alliance previously won a federal court victory establishing that federal law stands as no barrier to California physicians who certify a patient who has legitimate need for medical marijuana. By the same logic, state officials are free to issue registration cards vouching for the legitimacy of a physician's certification.
Attorneys general in Oregon and Hawaii similarly upheld their states' medical marijuana programs, despite the federal laws that criminalize medical marijuana. The Oregon Attorney General's formal statement clarified that, "Because the Act [Oregon's medical marijuana law] remains valid state law, DHS [Oregon Department of Human Services] continues to be responsible for maintaining the issuance of the cards"
"It is shameful that a court may have to order the state to reopen the doors to its medical marijuana program, but this will be the inevitable result unless the Governor backs down from this unfounded assault on legitimate medical marijuana patients," said Daniel Abrahamson, Legal Affairs Director for The Alliance.
California Resumes Medical Marijuana Program July 18, 2005 - abc7news.com
State officials revived California's medical marijuana identification card program Monday, saying state employees weren't violating federal law by issuing pot ID cards.
"The state attorney general has reviewed this concern and said that California can issue ID cards to medical marijuana users without state employees facing prosecution for assisting in the commission of a federal crime," state Health Director Sandra Shewry said in a statement.
Shewry's office shuttered the pilot program 10 days ago, citing concerns over a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
Last month, the court ruled that people who smoke marijuana because their doctors recommend it to ease pain or other conditions can be prosecuted for violating federal drug laws.
The ruling did not strike down laws in California and nine other states that permit medical cannabis use, but said federal drug laws take precedence.
In a legal review sought by Shewry, Attorney General Bill Lockyer said that employees issuing the IDs could not be prosecuted for aiding or abetting the violation of a crime.
Lockyer's office also said that the information collected from applicants could be obtained by federal authorities and used to identify and prosecute medical marijuana users.
Health department spokesman Ken August said he was not aware of federal agents requesting such information.
Shewry said a new program application would state clearly that information submitted could be turned over to federal authorities and that possession of marijuana remains a federal crime.
The 123 people who already have been issued the IDs will be also be contacted, August said.
Complying with a state mandate that lawmakers passed after California voters approved a medical marijuana law in 1996, the state Health Department in May launched the pilot pot card program in Amador, Del Norte and Mendocino counties.
One purpose of the cards is to give medical pot users a way to show they have a legitimate reason for possessing pot if they are stopped by law enforcement.
The pilot program will is scheduled to be complete by the end of the month and expand statewide on Aug. 1.