SoCal Counties Lose Bid To Overturn Marijuana Law

SAN DIEGO (AP) - San Diego and San Bernardino counties lost their latest court battle to resist issuing identification cards to qualified medical marijuana patients.

A three-judge panel of the 4th District Court of Appeals ruled Thursday that federal law does not pre-empt California's medical marijuana law. The state law also requires counties to establish programs to regulate eligibility for the ID cards.

San Diego supervisors sued to overturn Proposition 215, but a Superior Court judge ruled against them in December 2006. The county appealed last year and was joined by San Bernardino.

The counties had argued that issuing the government ID cards to
eligible patients would violate federal drug laws.

But the appeals court concluded that ID card laws "do not pose a significant impediment" to the federal Controlled Substances Act because that law is designed to "combat recreational drug use, not
to regulate a state's medical practices."

Lawyers representing San Diego-area patients said identification
cards help their clients and law enforcement.

"(The cards) let police know they shouldn't waste their time harassing or otherwise investigating patients who are legal under California law," said Joe Elford, chief counsel for Americans for Safe Access.

The counties have 40 days to either appeal Thursday's ruling to the California Supreme Court or implement an ID card program.

"The court didn't really get to the key issue," said Thomas D. Bunton, senior deputy county counsel in San Diego. "(Federal law) clearly regulates medical practices. It says marijuana has no currently accepted medical use."

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

AP-NY-08-01-08 0827EDT

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