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Tuesday, May 21, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

California’s Medical Pot Law Challenged

SAN JOSE (CN) - California's Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, signed into law this month to regulate the industry, violates the state's constitution, a medical marijuana collective operator claims in court.

Governor Jerry Brown signed the law on Oct. 9, to establish a comprehensive legislative framework for the production, transportation and sale of medical marijuana in California.

The bipartisan group of legislators who drafted the laws says they will provide a licensing structure for the industry, establish security, worker and safety standards and protect patient access, under a combination of state and local control.

But David Armstrong claims the law violates the California Constitution because it amended a voter initiative- the 1996 Compassionate Use Act, which legalized doctor-recommended medical marijuana - without voter approval.

The Oct. 21 complaint also says federal law pre-empts the act in prohibiting possession of marijuana for any purpose. Armstrong made that claim, seemingly at odds with his job, to prevent federal complications should the state law stand, his attorney said.

Armstrong objects to the act's restrictions on the amount of marijuana a person can grow for medical purposes, the amount of marijuana a patient's primary caregiver can grow for medical use, and restrictions on the number of patients to whom a physician can recommend marijuana for medical use, among other things.

He also says the federal Controlled Substances Act conflicts with and pre-empts the act.

Armstrong's attorney Nicholas Emanuel said in an interview that the full effects of the new legislation on medical marijuana dispensary operators are not yet clear, but his client thought it best to go ahead and file suit to "get a jump on things."

"The law essentially changes everything [the operators] do," Armstrong said. "It's going to require the state government's OK to participate in this activity at all, and it's going to be up to the state's discretion to determine who's allowed to distribute."

Emanuel said his client is not anti-regulation - in fact, he favors it - but he believes the act is "not the most effective way to do things," since the act is "completely illegal under federal law."

"To develop a coherent and realistic policy we need to have all levels of government working together, rather than this sort of patchwork regulation that we have now," Armstrong said.

Assemblyman Rob Bonta, one of the act's primary authors, told Courthouse News, "The Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act was the product of thousands of hours of extensive drafting and was strictly vetted by the attorneys for the Legislature. I am confident that the act will withstand judicial review."

Armstrong seeks declaratory judgment that the law violates the California Constitution and its Business and Profession Code, that it is pre-empted by federal law, and attorney's fees.

Emanuel, his attorney in Santa Clara County Court, is with Gates Eisenhart Dawson, in San Jose.

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