California court rules medical marijuana program does not violate federal laws

[JURIST] Judges for California's Fourth District Court of Appeal in San Diego ruled [opinion, PDF; case materials] Thursday that challenged provisions of California's Medical Marijuana Program (MMP) [materials] are constitutional and do not violate the federal Controlled Substances Act (CSA) [text]. The counties of San Diego and San Bernardino had argued that certain provisions of the MMP were unconstitutional as violations of the Supremacy Clause [text] because the MMP was a barrier to the enforcement of the CSA. San Bernardino county also argued that the requirement that the counties issue cards to those eligible for medical marijuana who request the cards was unconstitutional. The trial court rejected the counties' claims [opinion, PDF], holding that the state laws did not require conduct that violated federal laws. The appeals court upheld the trial court's ruling, holding:

We are unpersuaded by Counties' arguments that the identifications laws, standing alone, present significant obstacles to the purposes of the CSA. For example, Counties assert that identification cards make it "easier for individuals to use, possess, and cultivate marijuana" in violation of federal laws, without articulating why the absence of such a card--which is entirely voluntary and not a prerequisite to the exemptions available for such underlying conduct--renders the underlying conduct significantly more difficult.

Counties also appear to assert the identification card laws present a significant obstacle to the CSA because the bearer of an identification card will not be arrested by California's law enforcement officers despite being in violation of the CSA. However, the unstated predicate of this argument is that the federal government is entitled to conscript a state's law enforcement officers into enforcing federal enactments, over the objection of that state, and this entitlement will be obstructed to the extent the identification card precludes California's law enforcement officers from arresting medical marijuana users. The argument falters on its own predicate because Congress does not have the authority to compel the states to direct their law enforcement personnel to enforce federal laws.
The San Francisco Chronicle has more.

About a dozen states permit the use of medical marijuana. The latest state to approve its use is New Mexico with the governor's April 2007 signing [JURIST report] of the Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act [Senate Bill 523 text and history], legalizing medical marijuana [JURIST news archive] in the treatment of certain "eligible conditions and symptoms." Eligible conditions include chronic or debilitating diseases such as cancer, AIDS, and glaucoma. Nonetheless, The US Supreme Court's 2005 decision in Gonzales v. Raich [opinion text; Duke Law case backgrounder] upheld Congress's power to criminalize the growth and personal use of marijuana for medical purposes.

 

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