Nov. 9, 2005 – The city council of Santa Cruz, California on Tuesday passed for the second time an ordinance paving the way for the nationâ€™s first-ever government-run medical marijuana distribution program. A portion of the ordinance would hold off enactment until federal courts resolve current cases dealing with the issue.
- California Reinstates Medical Marijuana Card Program (Jul 20, 2005)
Under the measure, the Santa Cruz city government will set up an Office of Compassionate Use that will handle procuring and storing marijuana and dispense it to "qualified patients" under Californiaâ€™s nearly ten-year-old Compassionate Use Act. A council-appointed five-person board, made up of at least two approved medical marijuana users or caregivers and two medical professionals, will oversee the officeâ€™s actions and report back to the council.
Applauding the impending passage of the law in a statement yesterday, the American Civil Liberties Union noted that the program could provide patients and medical marijuana providers a shield from federal prosecution. The ACLU actively supports medical marijuana laws across the country.
In Raich v Gonzales this summer, the Supreme Court found that the federal government has the power under the Constitutionâ€™s Commerce Clause to prosecute users and providers of marijuana even in states that have legalized the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.
No prosecutions have been sought under that ruling, but the ACLU said Santa Cruzâ€™s move represents a direct challenge to the law by testing "statesâ€™ constitutional right to opt out of enforcing the federal governmentâ€™s medical marijuana prohibition scheme."
In a recently written legal opinion, California Attorney General Bill Lockyear said: "The federal government cannot enforce federal criminal laws against state officials who merely implement valid state law â€“ or choose not to enforce federal law."
Santa Cruz is currently the plaintiff in a lawsuit seeking protection from federal law enforcement actions related to medical marijuana.