Los Angeles Criminal Law Blog

Medical Marijuana: Still a Mystery

Posted on: December 2, 2008 at 2:44 p.m.

In Los Angeles and in California, drug defense attorneys are constantly battling with the state and federal governments to get a clear sense of what the drug laws actually say in regard to medical marijuana. Recently, some medicial marijuana defense attorneys attempted to bring this issue before the current United States Supreme Court in order to get some clarification. Unfortunately, however, the Court wasn't interested in the issue.

More than three years after Garden Grove police seized a small amount of medical marijuana from a chronic pain patient, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider the city's argument -- which divided California's major law enforcement organizations -- that it should not have to give the medical marijuana back.

Advocates cheered the development as a step forward for medical marijuana users to get their "medicine" back from police. "This is our biggest legal victory to date, and we're very glad it's now become final," said Joe Elford, an attorney with Americans for Safe Access, an Oakland-based medical marijuana advocacy group.

City officials expressed disappointment and said their position was never to challenge the constitutionality of California's medical marijuana law, only whether police could be forced to return the drug.

California, one of 13 states that had declared medical marijuana to be legal, has as many as 300,000 valid medical marijuana patients. A litany of the state's major law enforcement organizations opposed the return of the defendant's marijuana, including the California State Sheriffs' Assn., the California Police Chiefs Assn., the California Peace Officers' Assn., and the California District Attorneys Assn., along with 15 cities or counties. But Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown supported the defendant.

California's medical marijuana law, called the Compassionate Use Act, has often been challenged, or completely ignored, by Federal authorities. However, this particular issue was a state matter. The challenge in the the Supreme Court choosing not to hear the matter is that it leaves a chasm between the state and federal law, leaving defendants to twist in the wind.

Proposition 215 was passed by the voters in California in 1996, commonly referred to as the Compassionate Use Act. That was followed 8 years later by Senate Bill 420, enacted in 2004. These two propositions have been codified in the California Penal Code section 11362.775 et seq. The federal government does not recognize this law, and thus sales of medical marijuana under the federal system are criminalized. Unfortunately, the Los Angeles Police Department has decided not to enforce the medicinal marijuana laws of California.

Tagged as: california criminal laws


Phils sabordo comm 174 on December 13, 2008 at 12:30 a.m. wrote:

I definitely agree with you Tatiana. More control and action must be taken in order to keep medicinal marijuana in the hands of poeple who legitimately need it for health reasons. Too many people abuse this and it may in the future ultimately effect those who actually need it. But i strongly agree that marijuana is in many ways better than pills.

tatiana vardanyan on December 11, 2008 at 2:47 a.m. wrote:

I think medical marijuana is good for those who really are in the need of this drug.And they are people who abuse this law and take out a marijuana card and buy marijuana for the medical places and use it to just get high for the hell of it. Dea should stop this people, not the medical clinic stores. The owners of the medical stores are trying to help the ill. But to my understanding there are some medical clinic place that sell marijuana to those that dont have the card to. Lets look at it this way marijuana is a drug that can help the ill to feel better from extreme pains they have, it can help people that have a disorder of not eating food. It makes you want to eat.The street word for it is muchiezzz. Ok lets say I am in a extreme pain and i start drinking pain killers that my doc wrote out to me.whats wrong with this. 1. you get addict to it. 2.you can overdose and die from it 3. crazy sidefects that can harm you in lots of ways 4.now from the sidefects that you get from those pain killers you have to take more pills to control those sidefects 5.its not natural (organic) ok lets see about marijuana 1. its not addictive 2. you cant get overdose on marijuana even if you somke it all day. 3.there has not been one reporting about overdosed person on marijuana 4. its natural (organic) 5. if you cant smoke there are edibles 6. I haved school freinds that smoke marijuana and study and they get A's in the class.so it even sometimes helps to study now you american people dicide on which one is better for the american people my thought is marijuana v.s. pills

Caitlin Keane on December 2, 2008 at 8:51 p.m. wrote:

Despite having taken multiple Civics and law classes, I am still confused about how state and federal laws can so blatantly clash. California thinks medical marijuana should be legal, while the government of the country disagrees. I have done much research on DOMA, and the implications of gay marriage in terms of federal and state laws. DOMA has been ruled unconstitutional on a federal scale, yet states still have their own individual bans on same sex marriage. Because states can rule that gay people can marry without worrying that the federal goverment will come in and stop these marriages, shouldn't medical marijuana laws be the same? Also, isn't the LAPD breaking state law by not enforcing the Compassionate Use Act? Just because the federal law says to do so does not mean that it is legal by state law. If this was so, what would be the point of even having state laws? Everyone would just follow federal laws. I am confused as to who has the right to confiscate and prosecute those using medical marijuana. If it is a federal problem, then is it just the federal agents that are warranted, or can state police do it too? This seems to put alot of responsibility and power in the hands of individual policemen if they can determine who to charge or not. If the LAPD can just decide not to follow this state law, do they have that freedom in regards to other state laws as well? What is disconcerting is that the Supreme Court did not care enough to hear the case. If the only body that can resolve this conflict refuses to hear the case, then the issue will never be fixed.

Keri Wittmeyer (Com 174) on December 2, 2008 at 7:02 p.m. wrote:

On what grounds did the Garden Grove police confiscate it in the first place? Were they working as 'de facto' DEA agents at the time? How are they even justifying keeping it? If they have it legally, what's the difference between police confiscating any other property and deciding to keep it? Why do they want to keep it? To get it off of the streets or? Something is missing that indicates any reason they should have it in the first place, and on what grounds they think it's okay to keep someone's property that isn't illegal. They may say they don't want to challenge the law, but they're choosing to ignore it completely, if not go above and beyond it by getting approval that they can confiscate legally owned property. The whole thing seems rather suspect in my opinion.

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