The US Supreme Court declined to review a lower court decision which said medical marijauna seized by police in California must be returned to the patient. Garden Grove said no to the lower court decision and protested to the US Supreme Court as returning pot violated federal pot law.
Nice victory for medical marijuana users and nice dent in Graden Grove taxpayers wallets. Like San Francisco which passed a handgun ban and cost the taxpayers ultimately $340,000 in costs to plaintiffs attorneys for gun owners.
Ron Getty - SF Libertarian
Hostis res Publica
Morte ai Tiranni
Dum Spiro, Pugno
City must relinquish seized medical pot
Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer
Tuesday, December 2, 2008The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal Monday by a California city that asked the justices to overturn a lower court ruling requiring police to return medical marijuana that they seize from a patient.
In the November 2007 ruling, a state appeals court said California's medical marijuana law entitles patients to recover pot wrongfully seized by police.
The city of Garden Grove (Orange County), joined by the California Narcotics Officers Association, argued that returning marijuana to a user would violate federal law, which strictly bans marijuana possession and distribution. The state Supreme Court refused to review the case earlier this year, and the nation's high court denied review Monday without comment.
"It's now settled that state law enforcement officers cannot arrest medical marijuana patients or seize their medicine simply because they prefer the contrary federal law," said Joseph Elford, chief counsel of the advocacy group Americans for Safe Access and lawyer for the plaintiff in the Garden Grove case.
Lois Bobak, a lawyer for Garden Gove, said city officials and police were disappointed by the court's rejection.
"Law enforcement officials are concerned about the proliferation of drugs," she said. In this case, she said, "they felt like they were being put in a position of violating federal law to comply with state law."
A similar issue may soon reach the U.S. Supreme Court in an appeal by San Diego County, which claims it is being forced to condone federal drug-law violations by California's medical marijuana law and legislation requiring counties to issue identification cards to marijuana patients. Another state appeals court upheld the California law in July, and the state Supreme Court turned away the county's appeal in October.
The Garden Grove case dates from June 2005, when police stopped Felix Kha for running a red light and found 8.1 grams of marijuana in a container. Kha said he had documentation that his doctor had recommended the drug for severe pain, but he was charged with marijuana possession. Prosecutors later dropped the charge, but the city refused to return the marijuana and said it should be destroyed.
Elford said Monday that Kha has never gotten his marijuana back and, after moving to Northern California, doesn't plan to return to Garden Grove and ask for it.
In last year's ruling, the Fourth District Court of Appeal in Santa Ana said withholding small amounts of marijuana from patients who are entitled to use it under state law would thwart the will of the voters who passed Proposition 215 in 1996, and also would violate the rights of people like Kha to recover property they possessed legally.
Dismissing police arguments that they have a duty to enforce and uphold the federal marijuana ban, the court said, "It is not the job of the local police to enforce the federal drug laws."
The Supreme Court case is Garden Grove vs. Superior Court, 07-1569.