August 20, 2008

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT:  media@aclu.org

SAN JOSE, CA - In a first-of-its-kind ruling, a federal court today held that the U.S. Constitution bars deliberate subversion by the federal government of state medical marijuana laws.

"Utilizing selective arrests and prosecutions, the federal government has sought to sabotage California’s reasoned approach to medical marijuana use," said Graham Boyd, Director of the ACLU Drug Law Reform Project. "For the first time, a court has recognized that a calculated plan by the federal government to undercut state medical marijuana laws is patently unconstitutional. Today’s decision forecasts an end to any organized federal effort to sabotage state medical marijuana laws."

While previous high-profile cases affirmed the federal government’s power to enforce federal drug laws against individual medical marijuana patients and providers on a case-by-case basis, today’s ruling clearly recognizes that a calculated pattern of federal enforcement can render state medical marijuana laws effectively inoperable, which would violate the Tenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

"It is obvious to anyone paying attention that federal officials have gone to great lengths to sabotage state efforts to allow for appropriate medical marijuana use," said Boyd. "The court made clear that this deliberate interference - once proved - would be unequivocally unconstitutional."

The case, County of Santa Cruz v. Mukasey, originated in 2003 when Bingham McCutchen LLP and the Drug Policy Alliance, along with private attorneys Gerald F. Uelmen and Benjamin Rice, sued the federal government for raiding a Santa Cruz-area medical marijuana cooperative, the Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana.

The ACLU and others argued, and the court agreed, that the U.S. Constitution permits states to determine for themselves what is legal and what is illegal under state law, and that the federal government may not deliberately undermine this process.

"The federal government has purposely set out to systematically subvert California’s medical marijuana program," said Daniel Abrahamson, director of legal affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. "Let us hope that this ruling leads to the merciful end of the federal government’s cruel war on sick and dying medical marijuana patients."

In today’s ruling, which rejected the federal government’s motion to dismiss the case, Judge Jeremy Fogel of the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, San Jose Division, relied on U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kozinski’s opinion in Conant v. Walters, which stated, in part, "Applied to our situation, this means that, much as the federal government may prefer that California keep medical marijuana illegal, it cannot force the state to do so."

In addition to U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey, the lawsuit names as defendants U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents involved in the raid of WAMM, and administrators of the DEA and Office of National Drug Control Policy.

The court’s ruling is available online at: www.aclu.org/drugpolicy/medmarijuana/36494lgl20080820.html

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