|11-28-2006, 07:28 PM||#1|
Judge rejects county pot suit; San Diego County challenged state law, saying federal
Judge rejects county pot suit; San Diego County challenged state law, saying federal law was supreme
By: GIG CONAUGHTON - Staff Writer
SAN DIEGO -- A Superior Court judge issued a tentative ruling Thursday rejecting San Diego County's challenge to overturn California's 10-year old, voter-approved "Compassionate Use Act" -- the law that says seriously ill people can use marijuana legally to ease their pain and suffering.
Superior Court Judge William R. Nevitt issued a tentative ruling Thursday morning that rejected the county's argument that the California law should be "pre-empted" by federal law -- which says that marijuana has no medicinal benefit and is illegal in all cases.
However, Nevitt also listened to lawyers argue for and against his tentative ruling for roughly two hours Thursday afternoon. Nevitt said he would consider the arguments and issue a final, written judgment, but did not say when.
Craig McClain, a Vista businessman, husband, father and spinal-cord injury victim, said he was "tentatively" happy after Nevitt's ruling.
"It gives me hope," McClain said, twisting uncomfortably in his motorized scooter in an attempt to ease the spastic attacks he suffers, which he had used marijuana to help control. "It just scares me when I hear their (county's) arguments."
The San Diego County Board of Supervisors filed a lawsuit in state court in December 2005 after refusing to comply with state orders to create an identification card and registry program for medical marijuana users. Two other counties, San Bernardino and Merced, joined the lawsuit last year. Last month, Riverside County supervisors rejected a plan to create a registry program and voted to join the other three counties.
The lawsuit has national importance -- and appeals could reach the U.S. Supreme Court -- because it marks the first time that a county has sued to try to overturn any of the medical marijuana laws approved by voters in 11 states.
San Diego County supervisors, who have opposed the Compassionate Use Act since it was put on the state ballot as Proposition 215 and approved by 56 percent of state voters in 1996, have called it a "bad law" that promotes drug abuse.
Medical marijuana advocacy groups and patients held a press conference -- punctuated by loud applause and whoops of joy -- on the courtroom steps Thursday after Nevitt's hearing to praise the judge's tentative ruling.
Jeremy Blank, attorney for San Diego NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said. "I think the judge's ruling is very encouraging. If it is affirmed ... I think it would be a great victory, not only for patients and doctors, but also for the voters of the state of California and Legislature of California."
The county's lawsuit argued that the state law should be pre-empted by federal law under the U.S. Constitution's "Supremacy Clause," which states that federal laws should be "supreme" over state laws. The federal Controlled Substances Act, approved in the 1970s, says that marijuana is a "Schedule 1" drug, without any medical value, on a par with heroin, LSD and mescaline.
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