ACLU Sues Fresno over Medical Marijuana Bans

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ACLU of Northern CA

Fresno – Today the ACLU of Northern California sued the City and County of Fresno over complete bans on cultivation of medical marijuana. The bans are inconsistent with state law that allows medical marijuana to be grown. The City and County also ban all medical marijuana dispensaries.

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“As a result of these bans, sick patients living in the Central Valley’s largest city have no lawful way to obtain medical marijuana locally,” said Novella Coleman, Fresno-based staff attorney for the ACLU-NC. “The bans are at odds with state law enacted by the voters of California.”

The ACLU suit charges that the Fresno ordinances are invalid because they are pre-empted by state laws. The lawsuit seeks to invalidate the bans.

In 1996, the people of California voted in favor of the Compassionate Use Act to allow seriously ill residents to cultivate and use marijuana for medical purposes without fear of fines or criminal penalties. In 2004, the California legislature expanded state protections for medical marijuana use by enacting the Medical Marijuana Program.

The ACLU is representing two Fresno residents in the suit:

  • Joan Byrd is a 67-year-old grandmother and a retired employee of the Fresno County Sheriff’s Department. She uses medical marijuana to alleviate the pain she suffers as a result of a serious injury she suffered at work.
  • Susan Juvet uses medical marijuana to treat the pain that she suffers as a result of fibromyalgia, which she has had since she was eleven years old, and to treat arthritis. She uses medical marijuana instead of prescription pain medication because those medications cause severe allergic reactions.

Currently any Fresno residents in violation of the local ordinance can face steep fines, destruction of their medical marijuana and, for violating the County ordinance, jail time. The County ban on all cultivation of medical marijuana was enacted on January 7, 2014 and is currently in effect; the City ban was enacted on March 27, 2014 and currently prohibits new cultivation but has a 120-day grace period for existing plants.

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