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."
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 "The source of local law enforcement's resistance to upholding state law is an outdated, harmful federal policy with regard to medical marijuana," he said.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."