GUEST COLUMN: Medical marijuana is what the people voted for
Everyone is entitled to their own opinion about medical marijuana. However, they are not entitled to their own facts. As someone who played a key role in the Proposition 215 campaign, I must correct several false and misleading statements issued by council members and the city attorney recently.
To begin with, members of the council have engaged publicly in practicing medicine without a license, diagnosing patients based upon their appearance and age. Furthermore, council members have publicly criticized those who use medical cannabis for anything less serious than cancer or AIDS, telling the public, “This isn’t what the voters voted for.”
Actually, this is exactly what the voters voted for. In the 1996 Voter Handbook, voters were instructed that a yes vote would legalize marijuana for any medical condition and exempt those who possess or cultivate marijuana with the written or oral approval of a physician.
In fact, James P. Fox, president of the California District Attorneys Association solemnly warned voters, in the official ballot arguments opposing our initiative that if Prop. 215 passed, it would “legalize marijuana.” Remember that this is the president of all the district attorneys and a publicly recognized authority on the law. Voters trusted his opinion and that this is how all the state district attorneys would interpret the new law, if approved by voters.
The fact is that when the people of California wrote and passed Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act, it was intended to fully exempt patients from all criminal prosecution for possession or cultivation.
Attorney General Dan Lungren even said so when he wrote his official title and summary to Prop. 215. Nowhere in the official title and summary or in the text of the Compassionate Use Act does it say anything about an affirmative defense or any limits or restrictions.
It was Lungren who fraudulently changed his official attorney general’s interpretation after the election from “exempts patients and defined caregivers” to his personal “narrow interpretation,” which told law enforcement they could go ahead and arrest anyone who had “too much for personal use.”
Lungren also immediately called a statewide meeting to discuss and coordinate how police could gut Proposition 215 and ignore the new law. The gist of his narrow interpretation was relayed to law enforcement officers throughout California by their professional associations and through official channels.
Lungren also met with and coordinated his attack on the Compassionate Use Act with federal officials. The affirmative defense strategy allowed opponents of medical marijuana to achieve what they couldn’t on election day – a fraudulent interpretation that allowed police to continue arresting and charging people as if Proposition 215 had never passed.
Several South Lake Tahoe officials have also expressed their opinion that federal law supersedes state law. However, our courts have ruled against this argument and ruled that federal law does not supersede state law, with respect to health and safety issues.
In People v. Kha, the Fourth District Court of Appeals said, “By complying with the court order to return Kha’s pot, Garden Grove officers will actually be facilitating a primary principle of federalism, which is to allow the states to innovate in areas bearing on the health and well-being of their citizens.”
This decision was challenged by various law enforcement organizations who brought the matter before the California Supreme Court which refused to hear the case. California police and prosecutors then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which also refused to hear the case, upholding this California decision as the law of the land.
Statements that federal law supersedes state law also places the city council, and every other official who uses this bogus argument to attempt to nullify the will of the people of California, in direct conflict with our California Constitution, the highest law in our state.
The US Supreme Court has had three opportunities to declare the Compassionate Use Act unconstitutional, yet they have not only refused to do so. Their legal decisions have clearly upheld that the people of California had every right to legalize the possession and cultivation of marijuana for medical purposes.
It is vital that the South Lake Tahoe City Council recognize it does not have the legal authority to restrict patients or their gardens. That’s because the California Constitution requires that any changes to a voter initiative must be submitted to the voters of the state and approved by them. Thus, no city attorney, nor city council, nor board of supervisors, nor sheriff, nor district attorney, nor legislature, nor attorney general, nor governor has the legal right to change the state’s medical marijuana law. Only the voters can change or modify this law. Thus, almost all of the city council’s proposed limits on medical marijuana gardens are a direct violation of law and of the state constitution.
Sick, disabled and dying patients throughout California are still being raided by SWAT teams, arrested, jailed, humiliated, treated like criminals, bankrupted, children seized by CPS and forced to fight for their freedom as well as their life, all because of those who are still illegally opposing this law 14 years after the people of California voted to exempt patients and caregivers from criminal penalties and sanctions.
It is time to separate opinion from fact and uphold the Compassionate Use Act as it was written and passed by the People of California. The lives of sick, disabled and dying patients are in the hands of dedicated and otherwise well-intentioned public officials.
– Steve Kubby is a South Lake Tahoe resident and author of “The Politics of Consciousness” and “Why Marijuana Should Be Legal.”
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