Friday, January 2, 2009
MMJ user sues SB County
By Will Bigham, Staff Writer
Posted: 01/01/2009 07:08:37 AM PST
A medical marijuana user announced this week that he will file a lawsuit Monday against San Bernardino County to compel the county to issue ID cards to medical marijuana users.
Scott Bledsoe, of Crestline, will also seek a court order halting the Sheriff Department's practice of arresting medical marijuana users for possession even when users present evidence that the drugs are for medical use, according to a news release.
Although a state law passed in 2003 compels counties to issue ID cards to medical marijuana users, San Bernardino county and several other counties have refused to do so, citing the state law's conflict with federal law, which prohibits marijuana possession.
San Bernardino County joined San Diego County in a 2006 lawsuit against the state challenging the constitutionality of the state's medical marijuana program.
A San Diego County judge ruled in favor of the state, and that ruling was affirmed in July by a State Court of Appeal.
The State Supreme Court declined to consider an appeal of the decision brought by the counties. The counties have said they intend to appeal the ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Until the appeals process is completed, San Bernardino County will not consider issuing ID cards for medical marijuana users, said county spokesman David Wert.
"The courts have not addressed the conflict between state and federal law," Wert said.
Sheriff's deputies in the county are instructed to arrest people who possess marijuana even when the users present marijuana ID cards issued by other counties, said San Bernardino County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Arden Wiltshire.
"The sheriff believes that federal law supersedes state law, and we do not recognize cards issued by other areas," Wiltshire said.
Lanny Swerdlow, director of the Marijuana Anti-Prohibition Project, said the county's position on medical marijuana is harmful to people who need the drug for medical reasons.
"People are being arrested," Swerdlow said. "Their lives are being ruined - just because Sheriff Gary Penrod wants to keep arresting medical marijuana patients and the Board of Supervisors does his bidding."
Swerdlow, of Palm Springs, said he helped arrange the lawsuit by pairing Bledsoe with an attorney, J. David Scott, who is willing to perform legal services pro bono.
"(Bledsoe) doesn't want to be arrested," Swerdlow said. "That's the problem. If you don't get the ID card, you can be arrested."
Swerdlow said activists believe that a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision declining to consider an appeal in a medical-marijuana case proves the county's position is legally untenable.
A court of appeal ruled in 2007 that the city of Garden Grove must return marijuana to a medical marijuana patient whose drugs were seized when he was arrested.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled it wouldn't hear the city's case on appeal in early December, meaning the court of appeal's ruling stands.
Swerdlow said Garden Grove's legal battle dealt with the same set of state and federal laws as the county's lawsuit.
Wert said he was not aware of the Garden Grove case.
Swerdlow said Bledsoe will be joined by a group of marijuana activists when he files the lawsuit in San Bernardino Superior Court at 1 p.m. Monday.
Wert declined to comment when asked specifically about Bledsoe's threatened legal action.