PROPOSITION 215: Judge Postpones Decision On Whether To Close Marijuana Clubs
U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer "said yesterday he'll decide whether to close six Northern California medical marijuana clubs after he receives final briefs on the case on April 16," the San Francisco Chronicle reports (Martin, 3/25). Breyer "heard four hours of oral arguments Tuesday in the federal government's case against" the clubs. The Sacramento Bee reports that Breyer said he hopes to find "a middle ground" between Proposition 215 and the 1970 U.S. Controlled Substances Act, but said he knew "he would have to choose sides because 'the federal government is not going to change its position.'" Breyer said he would consider several issues in making his ruling, including "whether Congress had medicinal uses in mind when it outlawed marijuana, and whether the federal government has ever used an injunction to regulate conduct that is legal under state law."
Heard In Court
Arguing for the government, U.S. Department of Justice trial lawyer Mark Quinlivan said "a state initiative cannot supplant the will of the people of the United States." He said the "only way sick people can get legal access to pot ... is either to persuade Congress to change the law or to persuade the federal bureaucracy to reclassify the drug." Representing the cannabis clubs, attorney Kate Wells argued it was possible for the state initiative and the federal law to "coexist" because the purpose of Proposition 215 "was to stop 'illegal' drug trade and 'improper' drug use, not regulated pot distribution" (Cooper, 3/25). William Panzer, an attorney for the Oakland Cannabis Club, charged that "the federal government for years 'has arbitrarily and capriciously' suppressed or ignored studies that showed marijuana to be a safe medicinal drug" (Curtius, Los Angeles Times, 3/25). San Francisco District Attorney Terence Hallinan testified "on the behalf of the club owners," arguing that "closing the clubs would cause great hardship for thousands of sick people and could actually increase crime." He said, "The situation would be completely unregulated, and people would have to go back to buying it illegally (on the street). It would be an immensely onerous enforcement problem" (Chronicle, 3/25).
According to the Times, "[c]lub operators say they act as primary caregivers in providing the drug to thousands of patients who otherwise have no safe way of purchasing it." However, federal and state prosecutors contend that Proposition 215 "did not legalize the clubs and that the clubs are not primary caregivers for their clients." Last month, the California Supreme Court "let stand a lower court ruling that Proposition 215 did not legalize cannabis clubs" (3/25).