Garden Grove Tried to Avoid Returning Cannabis to Patient
A California city's refusal to return less than $200 worth of cannabis to a qualified patient has now cost them at least a thousand times that. And they had to return the cannabis anyway.
As part of a settlement to resolve their unsuccessful challenge to the state's medical marijuana law, Garden Grove officials wrote a check for $139,000 in attorneys' fees to Americans for Safe Access, who represented the patient. That money is in addition to what the city spent fighting the case, estimated at in excess of $100,000.
"It's unfortunate that the City of Garden Grove felt it necessary to spend more than a quarter of a million dollars challenging a patient's right to his medicine," said ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford. "Hopefully, other local officials will now do better upholding medical marijuana patients' rights under the law."
When officials in Garden Grove said they would not return the eight grams of cannabis seized from Felix Kha in June 2005, ASA filed suit. All charges against Kha had been dismissed because he was able to show that he is a qualified patient under state law, but city officials argued that returning his medicine would require them to violate federal law.
In a landmark decision, a superior court disagreed and ordered the city to return the cannabis to Kha, but Garden Grove appealed. A state appellate panel also found in favor of Kha, ruling that, "it is not the job of the local police to enforce the federal drug laws." City officials then asked first the California Supreme Court and then the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the decision, but both refused to review the case.
"This settlement is a huge victory for patients that underscores law enforcement's obligation to uphold state law," said Elford. "Better adherence to state medical marijuana laws by local police will result in fewer needless arrests and seizures. That protects patients from hardship and avoids wasting resources."