MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Federal Judge Closes Pot Clubs
A U.S. District judge ruled yesterday in San Francisco that "whether or not medical marijuana clubs are legal under state Proposition 215, they are not legal under federal statutes that take precedence over California law." The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Judge Charles Breyer's ruling in effect shuts down six cannabis clubs in Northern California. Breyer wrote, "A state law which purports to legalize the distribution of marijuana for any purpose ... even a laudable one, nonetheless directly conflicts with federal law." U.S. Attorney Michael Yamaguchi, "who filed a civil suit" in January to close the clubs, said they "should immediately cease their operations" voluntarily (Russell, 5/15).
However, the Contra Costa Times reports the "legal wrangling in the San Francisco case is far from over." Breyer only issued a preliminary injunction, rather than a summary judgment sought by Yamaguchi. And yesterday, the club owners said they would "defy the injunction and expose themselves to contempt charges in order to present their arguments to a jury" (Mintz, 5/15). "We have no plans to shut our agency down," said Jeff Jones, director of the Oakland Cannabis Buyers Cooperative. Dennis Peron, former director and now spokesperson for the San Francisco Cannabis Healing Center, said getting "out in front of a jury ... is our chance to reach out to the common people" (Curtius, Los Angeles Times, 5/15). The Chronicle also reports "Breyer did not foreclose the possibility of a successful medical necessity defense in a jury trial." In addition, he "left open the possibility that federal courts would not attempt to stop the distribution of marijuana to the chronically ill by a government entity -- just as the courts have not blocked the otherwise illegal distribution of clean needles to drug users as an AIDS prevention measure."
Day In Court
The Chronicle notes that any jury trial would take place in San Francisco, where Proposition 215 passed by an 8-to-1 majority. In their case, the club lawyers said they would invoke a "medical necessity" argument and that there is "an established constitutional right to be 'free of pain.'" Peron said, "We're going to win, and change the medical marijuana laws throughout the country" (5/15). Dave Fratello, spokesperson for Americans for Medical Rights, said, "If medical marijuana patients are given their day in court, as the judge suggests, the government could lose big" (Ritter, USA Today, 5/15).