California’s new cannabis regulations violate the state constitution, according to a lawsuit filed by the owner of a local collective.
Gov. Jerry Brown signed a trio of bills earlier this month that establish a marijuana bureaucracy. The bipartisan legislative package creates a complex system of licensing and testing and governs everything from seed to sale.
Dave Armstrong, however, argues that the just-passed Medical Marijuana Regulations and Safety Act violates the California Constitution. In a lawsuit filed last week in Santa Clara County Superior Court, the MediMarts operator claims that the law amends a voter initiative—Prop. 215, called the 1996 Compassionate Use Act—without voter approval.
“The state cannot take this away from the people and make it the ‘Cash In On Our Use Act,’” said Armstrong, who's represented by attorney Nicholas Emanuel. “When did ‘compassion’ turn into ‘compensation?’”
Armstrong takes issue with the state-set limits on how much marijuana a patient or caregiver can grow. New restrictions on how many patients a doctor can see also conflict with the two-decade-old voter initiative and infringe on the rights of patients, according to the lawsuit.
Regardless of what the state passes, it all flouts federal law, the complaint continues. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency still classifies the plant as a Schedule I drug, which makes it illegal for clinical or personal use.
“It’s a sad truth in this matter when one arm of the state tells you one thing and the other supports unlawful business activities,” said Armstrong, who has also sued the city of San Jose over local marijuana regulations.
Assemblyman Rob Bonta (D-Alameda), one of the lead authors of California's new pot regulations, said he's confident the legislation will stand up to the challenge.
"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," he said. "I am confident that the act will withstand judicial review."
The American Medical Marijuana Association (AMMA), a patient and caregiver advocacy group, plans to file a similar complaint alleging that the state Legislature is trying to override a voter initiative.
Under incipient state rule, patients’ gardens will be limited to 100 square feet, regular family doctors must issue recommendations and local governments can continue to ban cannabis cultivation, storage, manufacture and transport. All those provisions go against Prop. 215, AMMA claims.
“Our medical cannabis rights … have been hijacked,” AMMA director Steve Kubby said in a statement. “Prop. 215 is under attack like never before.”