U.S. Supreme Court: State Medical Marijuana Laws Not Preempted by Federal Law

By Guest Author December 3, 2011 U.S. Supreme Court: State Medical Marijuana Laws Not Preempted by Federal Law
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WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Supreme Court refused to review a landmark decision today in which California state courts found that its medical marijuana law was not preempted by federal law. The state appellate court decision from November 28, 2007, ruled that “it is not the job of the local police to enforce the federal drug laws.”

The case, involving Felix Kha, a medical marijuana patient from Garden Grove, was the result of a wrongful seizure of medical marijuana by local police in June 2005. Medical marijuana advocates hailed today’s decision as a huge victory in clarifying law enforcement’s obligation to uphold state law. Advocates assert that better adherence to state medical marijuana laws by local police will result in fewer needless arrests and seizures. In turn, this will allow for better implementation of medical marijuana laws not only in California, but in all states that have adopted such laws.

“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 the defendant Felix Kha in a case that the City of Garden Grove appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. “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.”

California medical marijuana patient Felix Kha was pulled over by the Garden Grove Police Department and cited for possession of marijuana, despite Kha showing the officers proper documentation. The charge against Kha was subsequently dismissed, with the Superior Court of Orange County issuing an order to return Kha’s wrongfully seized 8 grams of medical marijuana. The police, backed by the City of Garden Grove, refused to return Kha’s medicine and the city appealed. Before the 41-page decision was issued a year ago by California’s Fourth District Court of Appeal, the California Attorney General filed a “friend of the court” brief on behalf of Kha’s right to possess his medicine. The California Supreme Court then denied review in March.

“The source of local law enforcement’s resistance to upholding state law is an outdated, harmful federal policy with regard to medical marijuana,” said ASA spokesperson Kris Hermes. “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.”