Plaintiff in Medical Marijuana Supreme Court Case Calls DMV Notice To Re-Examine Driving Record ‘Retaliation’
Diane Monson, one of two state residents who are plaintiffs in a case seeking to end federal raids of medical marijuana users and providers, said on Tuesday that the state Department of Motor Vehicles had sent her a notice requiring a review of her driving qualifications, a move she called an act of "retaliation" for her legal efforts, the Sacramento Bee reports.
The lawsuit filed by Angel Raich -- who has a brain tumor, life-threatening weight loss, a seizure disorder and nausea -- and Monson, who has severe back pain and constant muscle spasms caused by a degenerative spine disease, is in response to a 2002 incident in which Drug Enforcement Administration agents seized and destroyed marijuana plants that Monson possessed. California law allows residents to possess and use marijuana for medical purposes with a recommendation from a physician. The two women sued Attorney General John Ashcroft to prevent future raids.
In December 2003, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that federal prosecution of medical marijuana patients is unconstitutional if the drug is not sold, transported across state lines or used for nonmedical purposes. The case, Ashcroft v. Raich, focuses on whether the federal government has the authority to regulate marijuana plants grown at home (California Healthline, 11/30).
Monson said that she received the Dec. 6 notice requesting a re-examination of her qualifications despite a near-perfect driving record. Such reviews are usually triggered by family members, doctors or traffic officers but can be initiated by anyone, DMV said. Monson said she does not know who started the process and could offer no explanation for the letter.
"I feel somewhat that this is a retaliation for my status as a medical marijuana user," Monson said, adding that losing her license "would truly devastate [her] life" and that she never drives while impaired (Sacramento Bee, 12/22).
"I still feel very strongly that I've done nothing whatsoever to warrant this investigation," Monson said (Melley, AP/Contra Costa Times, 12/22).
DMV on Tuesday "changed its tune" and indefinitely postponed a hearing on Monson's record that had been scheduled for Thursday, the Bee reports.
DMV spokesperson Bill Branch said in a statement, "Upon being alerted by the news media to the situation involving Diane Monson, high-ranking DMV officials acted immediately to postpone the Thursday driver safety hearing, pending a thorough internal review to determine all the circumstances surrounding this matter" (Sacramento Bee, 12/22).
Branch added, "So far as top-level DMV officials can recall, we are not aware of any other cases involving medicinal marijuana" (AP/Contra Costa Times, 12/22).
David Michael, Monson's attorney, praised DMV's decision to delay the hearing but said that without the media attention, Monson "would have been stuck in a bureaucratic morass." Michael said, "I don't know who else is being subjected to these types of hearings" (Sacramento Bee, 12/22). He added, "The important thing is that Diane was given this notice not because of any driving, but solely because of the fact she's a medical cannabis patient."
Nathan Barankin, a spokesperson for Attorney General Bill Lockyer (D), said he has never heard of a similar DMV case, adding, "Quite frankly, I find it strange. It seems odd that this would happen" (AP/Contra Costa Times, 12/22).