Medical marijuana group sues county

January 6, 2009 12:17:38 PM PST
A medical marijuana advocacy group plans to sue Solano County Monday for not implementing a state-mandated identification card program that protects medical marijuana patients from arrest and prosecution.

Americans for Safe Access will file the complaint in Solano County Superior Court, ASA's chief counsel Joe Elford said Monday morning.

Elford said Solano is among about a dozen counties in the state that have not implemented the identification card program despite state legislation adopted in 2003 and upheld on appeal in July 2008 by the California Fourth District Court of Appeal.

The counties that have not implemented the identification card program claim that federal law, which regards marijuana use, cultivation and sales as illegal, preempts California's law allowing marijuana use for medicinal purposes, Elford said.

The Solano County Counsel's Office did not immediately return a call for comment on the pending suit.

Elford estimates there are hundreds of medical marijuana patients in Solano County.

"Solano County cannot simply flaunt its obligation under the law," Elford said in a prepared statement. "This lawsuit is aimed at forcing counties like Solano to fully implement state law and to stop denying medical marijuana patients their legal rights and protections."

The suit is being filed by Americans for Safe Access and two Solano County medical marijuana patients, Linda Jimenez, who uses marijuana for headaches and joint pain, and John Doe, who uses the drug for pain from degenerative disc disorder and joint arthritis in his lower back.

Doe's marijuana was seized after he was detained and charged in March 2006 with possession of marijuana, according to the complaint.

Doe would have obtained a medical marijuana identification card if it were available, according to the suit, which states that Doe is concealing his real name because he fears reprisal from prospective employers.

California voters in 1996 approved Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act, which allows use of medical marijuana approved by a physician.

The state Legislature in 2003 passed the Medical Marijuana Program Act, which provides for a voluntary medical marijuana identification card program to protect against arrest and prosecution for medical marijuana use.

The suit alleges the Solano County Board of Supervisors and the county's Health and Social Services Department have refused to implement the ID card program.

The Board of Supervisors voted against the identification card program in September 2006, according to the suit.

The California Superior Court in December 2006 upheld the Medical Marijuana Program Act, rejecting a challenge by San Diego and San Bernardino counties, and denied the counties' petition for review on Oct. 16, 2008, according to the ASA lawsuit.

The suit asks Solano County to start the medical marijuana identification card program within 30 days.

Jo Ann Parker, Solano County Deputy County Counsel, said this morning she could not comment on the pending suit because she has not seen the complaint. She said, however, the county's Board of Supervisors will discuss the medical marijuana ID card program in a closed session on Jan. 13.