Medical-pot edict may affect Sutter, Colusa
U.S. Supreme Court rebuffs two counties that oppose card programs
A U.S. Supreme Court decision Monday to not hear an appeal from two California counties opposing medical marijuana card programs could have ramifications for Colusa and Sutter counties.
The high court on Monday refused to hear appeals from San Diego and San Bernardino counties, which say the justices have never directly ruled on whether California's law trumps federal controlled-substances laws.
Sutter and Colusa, along with San Diego and San Bernardino, are among a handful of counties statewide that haven't created card programs for medical pot users. The decision comes more than a decade after California voters approved the use of medicinal marijuana with Proposition 215.
Late last year, Colusa County officials began a study that could lead to a card program, while Sutter County has consistently rejected such efforts.
Yuba County began a card program for medical marijuana users last year.
Sutter County spokesman Chuck Smith said the county will study the Supreme Court's decision and react accordingly. Sutter County Supervisor Stan Cleveland said Monday he would let Smith's statement speak for the board for now.
Sutter County District Attorney Carl Adams said the court's refusal to hear the appeal leaves in place a situation that he finds distasteful: state law in conflict with federal law, which holds marijuana is a controlled substance.
"It's a horrible situation for a government to have laws it doesn't enforce," Adams said, referring to an edict by President Barack Obama earlier this year that his administration wouldn't go after marijuana growers in states where medical marijuana is allowed.
"It's an issue of all the ridiculous things we do to not violate federal law while still following state law," Adams said.
He added he wasn't a strong advocate for either side of the medical marijuana debate, noting his office often dismisses cases for marijuana possession when the defendant can show they had it for medical reasons.
In Colusa County, calls for comment left with the Department of Health and Human Services and the county counsel were not returned Monday.
Colusa County District Attorney John Poyner said through a staff member in his office that he hadn't seen the ruling and had no comment.
Supporters say marijuana helps chronically ill patients relieve pain. Critics say the drug has no medical benefit and all use should be illegal.
The San Diego Board of Supervisors had sued to overturn the state law after it was approved by voters in 1996, but lower courts have ruled against them.
San Diego and San Bernardino counties argued that issuing identification cards to eligible users, as required by the 1996 state law, would violate federal law, which does not recognize the state measure.
A state appeals court ruled 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."
There are no dispensaries for medical marijuana in Colusa, Sutter or Yuba counties.
The cases are County of San Bernardino v. California, 08-897, and County of San Diego v. San Diego NORML, 08-887.
Contact Appeal-Democrat reporter Ben van der Meer at 749-4709 or email@example.com. The Associated Press contributed to this report.