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Medical Marijuana: US Supreme Court Declines to Hear Challenge to Appeals Court Ruling Protecting State Medical Marijuana Laws

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #563)
Drug War Issues

The US Supreme Court Monday declined to review a lower court decision that ordered Garden Grove, California, police to return marijuana seized from a medical marijuana patient. In November 2007, the California Fourth District Court of Appeal had ordered the marijuana returned, finding that "it is not the job of local police to enforce federal drug laws."

US Supreme Court
The case was that of Felix Kha, who was pulled over by Garden Grove police in 2005 and cited for marijuana possession despite showing officers his medical marijuana documentation. The possession case against Kha was subsequently dismissed, and the Orange County Superior Court ordered the police to return Kha's wrongfully seized quarter-ounce of marijuana. Police and the city of Garden Grove refused to return the pot, and appealed the ruling, but lost in the state appeals court last year.

The California Supreme Court refused to review the case in March. Now, the US Supreme Court has followed suit. The refusals to hear the appeal means the two high courts have accepted the state appeals court's reasoning that California's medical marijuana law is not preempted by federal law, said medical marijuana advocates.

"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 Joe Elford, chief counsel with Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the medical marijuana advocacy organization that represented Kha. "Perhaps, in the future local government will think twice about expending significant time and resources to defy a law that is overwhelmingly supported by the people of our state."

But Lois Bobak, a private attorney whose firm represents the city on a contract basis, said the issue in the case was a narrow one. "The US Supreme Court didn't issue any kind of ruling, it just failed to review a lower-court decision," Bobak told NBC Los Angeles. "You can't read too much into that fact. The city felt it was important to pursue the legal principle that police shouldn't be put in a position of returning a substance that is contraband under federal law."

It's federal law that needs to change, said ASA spokesman Kris Hermes. "The source of local law enforcement's resistance to upholding state law is an outdated, harmful federal policy with regard to medical marijuana," he said. "This should send a message to the federal government that it's time to establish a compassionate policy more consistent with the 13 states that have adopted medical marijuana laws."

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


David Dunn (not verified)

It should also follow that if the enforcement of federal drug laws is not the duty of local and state law enforcement, then states having industrial hemp laws ought likewise exempt local and state law enforcement from enforcing federal laws against those growing, processing, manufacturing and selling hemp products.

States need to take the initiative and pass industrial hemp laws allowing for the growing, researching, testing, manufacturing and selling of hemp products. Hemp is not an enumerated object in the federal constitution. In Federalist Paper 39, cannabis-smoking James Madison wrote:

The federal government’s

jurisdiction extends to certain enumerated objects only, and leaves to the several States a residuary and inviolable sovereignty over all other objects.

States have a constitutional right to pass their own hemp laws including medical and recreational marijuana.

The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government.

— Thomas Jefferson

Fri, 12/05/2008 - 5:05pm Permalink
mikembmracing (not verified)

My wife is a hiv paitent and while setting in the waiting room during her Dr. appointments I have herd many others sufferng with HIV tell of the bennifets of using marijuana to give them appitite so they will eat.Although I,m drug free I thank people who suffer from cronic illness should have access to keep them as healthy as they can be.

Thu, 03/18/2010 - 10:54pm Permalink

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