ACLU of Oregon Urges State Officials to Immediately Resume Medical Marijuana Card Program

Affiliate: ACLU of Oregon
June 9, 2005 12:00 am

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Oregon Medical Marijuana Patients Still Protected, ACLU Says

PORTLAND, OR — The American Civil Liberties of Oregon issued a letter today to the State Attorney General’s office and the Department of Human Services urging the immediate resumption of the state’s medical marijuana card program in compliance with state law.

“Oregon’s medical marijuana law remains fully valid, whether or not the state is currently issuing ID cards,” said David Fidanque, Executive Director of the ACLU of Oregon. “This week’s Supreme Court decision has nothing to do with the state’s program. Based on our analysis, we expect the Attorney General will clarify this point very soon and direct the medical marijuana card program to return to business as usual.”

Oregon’s Department of Human Services issued a statement the day of the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Gonzales v. Raich saying that it would halt the issuance of medical marijuana registration cards until the state Attorney General’s office issued a legal opinion clarifying the status of Oregon’s state law and program. There are currently more than 10,000 medical marijuana cardholders in Oregon. The Attorney General’s office assured the ACLU in a phone conversation yesterday that it plans to issue a statement clarifying the status of the program, and the ACLU submitted a letter today urging the Attorney General and the Director of DHS to immediately resume the issuance of medical marijuana cards.

In a letter sent to the Attorney General today, the ACLU pointed out that the Supreme Court’s ruling in Raich addressed only the narrow question of whether the federal government retains power under the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution to enforce federal marijuana laws. The decision did not address any issues related to the continued validity of state laws allowing or facilitating the use of medical marijuana or doctors’ rights to recommend marijuana.

“State medical marijuana laws, including Oregon’s, remain valid despite the Supreme Court’s ruling. That’s a fact,” said Allen Hopper, an attorney with the ACLU Drug Law Reform Project. “Patients and doctors in Oregon should not be distracted by the recent media coverage. State law provides the same protections today that the voters established by initiative in 1998.”

Confusion arose after several Oregon newspapers reported inaccurate public statements that medical marijuana patients were no longer protected under state law because the Department of Human Services suspended issuance of registration cards.

“We want to make sure that medical marijuana patients in Oregon understand they are still protected under state law even with the current moratorium on issuing registration cards,” said Fidanque. “As long as a patient has submitted an application for a medical marijuana card with the Department of Human Services, they have the same level of legal protection as if they were holding the card in their hands, unless and until that application is denied.”

Oregon is one of at least three states in which the ACLU is clarifying that state medical marijuana laws remain valid despite the Supreme Court’s decision in Raich. The ACLU of Hawaii has threatened legal action against a U.S. Attorney in Honolulu who said he was considering prosecuting doctors who recommend medical marijuana in compliance with state law. The Alaska ACLU is also reviewing state officials’ announcements that they are considering suspending Alaska’s medical marijuana program.

For additional information on Gonzales v. Raich, see: /node/16973.

For additional information on post-Raich medical marijuana activity in Hawaii, see: /node/8734.

To read the letter sent by the ACLU, see: /node/37924.

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