Medical Marijuana Users Make Case in Court

SANTA ANA, Calif., Sept. 23 (UPI) — Patients who use medical marijuana argued in court Wednesday banning marijuana dispensaries in California would force them to buy the drug on the street.

A group of patients is appealing a judge’s dismissal of their lawsuit, which challenged a July 2007 Anaheim ordinance outlawing dispensaries and subjecting operators to criminal prosecution.

Members of the group — the Qualified Patients Association — testified Wednesday at a hearing before the 4th District Court of Appeal in Orange County, The Orange County Register reported.

Marla Jones of Huntington Beach said she uses marijuana to ease pain from flesh-eating bacteria. Without marijuana dispensaries, she said: “Our alternative is to get it from a gang member or cartels. That’s what cities are pushing us to do.”

California decriminalized marijuana for medical use in 1996, and the state legislature set up a program in 2003 in which cards allowing use can be issued to patients and caregivers.

But cities have banned dispensaries — several in Orange County have filed briefs supporting Anaheim’s ban — and all marijuana use is criminal under federal law.

The case could have implications for cities throughout California that seek the power of the courts to keep dispensaries out, the Register said.

Joe Elford, an attorney for Americans for Safe Access, which supports medical marijuana use, told the appeals court’s three-judge panel hundreds of cities are waiting its decision as they try to determine whether it is legal to ban dispensaries.

Copyright 2009 by United Press International

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