SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY — The U.S. Supreme Court Monday refused to hear a lawsuit filed by the counties of San Bernardino and San Diego to have medical marijuana Proposition 215 declared unconstitutional, essentially ending the counties’ bid to avoid issuing ID cards for people who say they use marijuana for medical purposes.
The two counties joined forces for their lawsuit in 2006 and were defeated in the lower courts, the appellate court and the state Supreme Court.
According to Sgt. Dave Phelps of the county sheriff’s Public Affairs Division, the county will now do whatever is required to comply with Proposition 215 and SB420.
The next step is for the Department of Public Health to issue the ID cards,” said Phelps. “We will develop policies and procedures to deal with those cards.”
I’m almost speechless,” said D.J. Ross, founder of the Yucca Valley dispensary California Alternative Medicinal Solutions.
I am very happy for our patients, who will be no doubt be breathing a little easier. This is a wonderful step forward and I hope we’ll see more to come.”
Lanny Swerdlow, director for the Marijuana Anti-Prohibition Project, also sees the court’s decision as a patient victory. “They will be able to get their medication safely and reliably, and hopefully it will be more affordable,” Swerdlow said.
Proposition 215 and the accompanying Senate Bill 420 provided for state-issued identification cards allowing residents to obtain, possess and cultivate limited amounts of marijuana for medicinal purposes.
San Bernardino County objected to taking on the role of issuing the ID cards.
Swerdlow said in most places in California, if a patient is stopped by law enforcement and has a limited amount of medical marijuana, he or she cannot be arrested for drug possession.
Currently, in San Bernardino County, a person found with marijuana can be arrested and face drug charges. Eventually, those charges may be dismissed if the accused can prove in court he or she had a doctor’s recommendation to use marijuana.
The identification cards are meant to circumvent that process by indicating to arresting officers that the suspect has a legitimate medical use for marijuana.
For the last 12 years, San Bernardino County law enforcement has been struggling with the gap between California’s Proposition 215 and the federal government’s drug laws, under which marijuana is still illegal.
We’ve been in limbo land on this,” said Morongo Basin Sheriff’s Capt. Donnie Miller.
Phelps doubted if implementation of the proposition would free up law enforcement’s time to go after other kinds of crime. “We’ll still have to go through the process of confirming the validity of the cards,” he said.
The High Desert MAPP meeting at 6:30 p.m. today will focus on just what the court decision will mean for medical-marijuana users in the county. The meeting is at the Castle Inn at 1388 North Golden Slipper Lane in Landers.