County of San Diego v. San Diego Norml, No. D050333.

CourtCalifornia Court of Appeals
Writing for the CourtMcDonald
Citation165 Cal.App.4th 798,81 Cal. Rptr. 3d 461
PartiesCOUNTY OF SAN DIEGO, Plaintiff and Appellant, v. SAN DIEGO NORML et al., Defendants and Respondents; WENDY CHRISTAKES et al., Interveners and Respondents. COUNTY OF SAN BERNARDINO et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. STATE OF CALIFORNIA et al., Defendants and Respondents; WENDY CHRISTAKES et al., Interveners and Respondents.
Docket NumberNo. D050333.
Decision Date31 July 2008
165 Cal.App.4th 798
81 Cal. Rptr. 3d 461
COUNTY OF SAN DIEGO, Plaintiff and Appellant,
v.
SAN DIEGO NORML et al., Defendants and Respondents;
WENDY CHRISTAKES et al., Interveners and Respondents.
COUNTY OF SAN BERNARDINO et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants,
v.
STATE OF CALIFORNIA et al., Defendants and Respondents;
WENDY CHRISTAKES et al., Interveners and Respondents.
No. D050333.
Court of Appeals of California, Fourth District, Division One.
July 31, 2008.

[165 Cal.App.4th 808]

John J. Sansone, County Counsel, Thomas D. Bunton and C. Ellen Pilsecker, Deputy County Counsel, for Plaintiff and Appellant County of San Diego.

Ruth E. Stringer, County Counsel, Alan L. Green, Charles J. Larkin and Dennis Tilton, Deputy County Counsel, for Plaintiffs and Appellants County of San Bernardino and Gary Penrod.

American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, Adam B. Wolf, Allen Hopper; ACLU of San Diego & Imperial Counties and David Blair-Loy for Defendants and Respondents San Diego NORML, Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana and Dr. Stephen O'Brien.

Edmund G. Brown, Jr., Attorney General, Christopher E. Krueger, Assistant Attorney General, Jonathan K. Renner and Peter A. Krause, Deputy Attorneys General, for Defendants and Respondents State of California and Sandra Shewry.

Americans for Safe Access and Joseph D. Elford for Interveners and Respondents Wendy Christakes, Norbert Litzinger, William Britt, Yvonne Westbrook and Americans for Safe Access.

OPINION

McDONALD, Acting P. J.


In 2003, the California Legislature enacted the Medical Marijuana Program Act. (Health & Saf. Code, §§ 11362.7-11362.9; hereafter MMP.)1 Among other provisions, the MMP imposed on counties the obligation to implement a program permitting a limited group of persons— those who qualify for exemption from California's statutes criminalizing certain conduct with respect to marijuana (the exemptions)—to apply for and obtain an identification card verifying their exemption.

In this action, plaintiffs County of San Diego (San Diego) and County of San Bernardino (San Bernardino) contend that, because the federal Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. §§ 801-904; hereafter CSA) prohibits possessing or using marijuana for any purpose, certain provisions of California's statutory scheme are unconstitutional under the supremacy clause of the United States Constitution. San Diego and San Bernardino (together Counties) did not claim below, and do not assert on appeal, that the exemption from state criminal prosecution for possession or cultivation of marijuana provided by

165 Cal.App.4th 809

California's Compassionate Use Act of 1996 (§ 11362.5; hereafter CUA) is unconstitutional under the preemption clause. Instead, Counties argue the MMP is invalid under preemption principles, arguing the MMP poses an obstacle to the congressional intent embodied in the CSA.

The trial court below rejected Counties' claims, concluding the MMP neither conflicted with nor posed an obstacle to the CSA. On appeal, Counties assert the trial court applied an overly narrow test for preemption, and the MMP is preempted as an obstacle to the CSA. We conclude Counties have standing to challenge only those limited provisions of the MMP that impose specific obligations on Counties, and may not broadly attack collateral provisions of California's laws that impose no obligation on or inflict any particularized injury to Counties. We further conclude, as to the limited provisions of the MMP that Counties may challenge, those provisions do not positively conflict with the CSA, and do not pose any added obstacle to the purposes of the CSA not inherent in the distinct provisions of the exemptions from prosecution under California's laws, and therefore those limited provisions of the MMP are not preempted. We also reject San Bernardino's claim that the identification card provisions of the MMP are invalid under the California Constitution.

I
THE STATUTORY FRAMEWORK

A. California Law

The CUA

(1) In California, marijuana is classified as a schedule I controlled substance (see § 11054, subd. (d)(13)), and its possession is generally prohibited. However, when California voters adopted the CUA, California adopted an exemption from state law sanctions for medical users of marijuana. The CUA, codified in section 11362.5, provides:

"(b)(1) The people of the State of California hereby find and declare that the purposes of the [CUA] are as follows:

"(A) To ensure that seriously ill Californians have the right to obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes where that medical use is deemed appropriate and has been recommended by a physician who has determined that the person's health would benefit from the use of marijuana in the treatment of cancer, anorexia, AIDS, chronic pain, spasticity, glaucoma, arthritis, migraine, or any other illness for which marijuana provides relief.

165 Cal.App.4th 810

"(B) To ensure that patients and their primary caregivers who obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes upon the recommendation of a physician are not subject to criminal prosecution or sanction.

"(C) To encourage the federal and state governments to implement a plan to provide for the safe and affordable distribution of marijuana to all patients in medical need of marijuana.

"(2) Nothing in this section shall be construed to supersede legislation prohibiting persons from engaging in conduct that endangers others, nor to condone the diversion of marijuana for nonmedical purposes.

"(c) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no physician in this state shall be punished, or denied any right or privilege, for having recommended marijuana to a patient for medical purposes.

"(d) Section 11357, relating to the possession of marijuana, and Section 11358, relating to the cultivation of marijuana, shall not apply to a patient, or to a patient's primary caregiver, who possesses or cultivates marijuana for the personal medical purposes of the patient upon the written or oral recommendation or approval of a physician.

"(e) For the purposes of this section, `primary caregiver' means the individual designated by the person exempted under this section who has consistently assumed responsibility for the housing, health, or safety of that person."

The MMP

(2) In 2003, the Legislature enacted the MMP to "address issues not included in the CUA." (People v. Wright (2006) 40 Cal.4th 81, 85 [51 Cal.Rptr.3d 80, 146 P.3d 531].) Among the MMP's purposes was to "`facilitate the prompt identification of qualified patients and their designated primary caregivers in order to avoid unnecessary arrest and prosecution of these individuals and provide needed guidance to law enforcement officers.'" (40 Cal.4th at p. 93.) To that end, the MMP included provisions establishing a voluntary program for the issuance of identification cards to persons qualified to claim the exemptions provided under California's medical marijuana laws. (§§ 11362.7, subd. (f), 11362.71.) Participation in the identification card program, although not mandatory, provides a significant benefit to its participants: they are not subject to arrest for violating California's laws relating to the possession, transportation, delivery or cultivation of marijuana, provided they meet the conditions outlined in the MMP. (§ 11362.71, subd. (e).)

165 Cal.App.4th 811

(3) Although the bulk of the provisions of the MMP confer no rights and impose no duties on counties,2 one set of provisions under the MMP—the program for issuing identification cards to qualified patients and primary caregivers—does impose certain obligations on counties. (§ 11362.71 et seq.) Under the identification card program, the California Department of Health Services is required to establish and maintain a program under which qualified applicants may voluntarily apply for a California identification card identifying them as qualified for the exemptions; the program is also to provide law enforcement a 24-hour a day center to verify the validity of the state identification card. (§ 11362.71, subd. (a).) The MMP requires counties to provide applications to applicants, to receive and process the applications, verify the accuracy of the information contained on the applications, approve the applications of persons meeting the state qualifications and issue the state identification cards to qualified persons, and maintain the records of the program. (§§ 11362.71-11362.755.)

The identification card program is voluntary and a person need not obtain an identification card to be entitled to the exemptions provided by state law. (§ 11362.765, subd. (b); People v. Wright, supra, 40 Cal.4th at pp. 93-94 [the MMP applies to both cardholders and noncardholders].)

B. Federal Law—the CSA

(4) The CSA provides it is "unlawful for any person knowingly or intentionally to possess a controlled substance unless such substance was obtained directly, or pursuant to a valid prescription or order, from a practitioner, while acting in the course of his professional practice ...." (21 U.S.C. § 844(a).) The exception regarding a doctor's prescription or order does not apply to any controlled substance Congress has classified as a schedule I drug (see 21 U.S.C. § 812(c)), including marijuana. (Gonzales v. Raich (2005) 545 U.S. 1, 14-15 [162 L.Ed.2d 1, 125 S.Ct. 2195].) Schedule I drugs are so categorized because they have (1) a high potential for abuse,

165 Cal.App.4th 812

(2) no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and (3) a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision. (21 U.S.C. § 812(b)(1).)

Possession of marijuana for personal use is a federal misdemeanor. (21 U.S.C. § 844a(a).) The legislative intent of Congress to preclude the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes is reflected in the statutory scheme of the CSA:3 "By classifying marijuana as a Schedule I drug, as opposed to listing it on a lesser schedule, the manufacture, distribution, or...

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3 practice notes
  • Habitat Trust for Wildlife, Inc. v. City of Rancho Cucamonga, No. E043925.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • July 21, 2009
    ...law such that if one conflicts with a federal statute it is "`"`"without effect."'"'" (County of San Diego v. San Diego NORML (2008) 165 Cal.App.4th 798, 818-819 [81 Cal.Rptr.3d 461].) The intent of Congress is paramount in determining whether preemption applies. (Id. at p. 819.) There are ......
  • People v. The Superior Court of Contra Costa County, No. S171117 (Cal. 4/8/2010), No. S171117.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • April 8, 2010
    ...(People v. Kelly (2010) 47 Cal.4th 1008, 1025-1026; see alsoCooper, supra, at p. 47; County of San Diego v. San Diego NORML (2008) 165 Cal.App.4th 798, 830.) In deciding whether this particular provision amends Proposition 115, we simply need to ask whether it prohibits what the initiative ......
  • People v. Loper, D062693
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • September 11, 2013
    ...and “has either suffered or is about to suffer an injury of sufficient magnitude.” (County of San Diego v. San Diego NORML (2008) 165 Cal.App.4th 798, 814, 81 Cal.Rptr.3d 461, italics omitted.) We reject Loper's argument because it is contrary to the approach in Pritchett,supra, 20 Cal.App.......
3 cases
  • Habitat Trust for Wildlife, Inc. v. City of Rancho Cucamonga, No. E043925.
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • July 21, 2009
    ...with a federal statute it is "`"`"without effect."'"'" (County of San Diego v. San Diego NORML (2008) 165 Cal.App.4th 798, 818-819 [81 Cal.Rptr.3d 461].) The intent of Congress is paramount in determining whether preemption applies. (Id. at p. 819.) There are f......
  • People v. The Superior Court of Contra Costa County, No. S171117 (Cal. 4/8/2010), No. S171117.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court (California)
    • April 8, 2010
    ...(People v. Kelly (2010) 47 Cal.4th 1008, 1025-1026; see alsoCooper, supra, at p. 47; County of San Diego v. San Diego NORML (2008) 165 Cal.App.4th 798, 830.) In deciding whether this particular provision amends Proposition 115, we simply need to ask whether it prohibits what the initiative ......
  • People v. Loper, D062693
    • United States
    • California Court of Appeals
    • September 11, 2013
    ...and “has either suffered or is about to suffer an injury of sufficient magnitude.” (County of San Diego v. San Diego NORML (2008) 165 Cal.App.4th 798, 814, 81 Cal.Rptr.3d 461, italics omitted.) We reject Loper's argument because it is contrary to the approach in Pritchett,supra, 20 Cal.App.......

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