Saturday, August 2, 2008

California's pot law upheld in appeals court

Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer
Friday, August 1, 2008

A state appeals court upheld California's 12-year-old medical marijuana law Thursday, rejecting two counties' arguments that allowing patients to use the drug with their doctor's approval condones violations of federal narcotics laws.

The Fourth District Court of Appeal in San Diego dismissed challenges by San Diego and San Bernardino counties, which objected both to the 1996 marijuana initiative and to recent legislation requiring counties to issue identification cards to users of medical pot.

The cards protect their holders from arrest by state or local police for possessing small amounts of marijuana.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that the federal government can enforce its drug laws, which ban marijuana use and cultivation, against patients and their suppliers in California and the 11 other states that have legalized medical marijuana under their own laws.

But in Thursday's ruling, the appeals court said states remain free to decide whether to punish drug users under their own laws.

"The (federal) law does not compel the states to impose criminal penalties for marijuana possession," said Justice Alex McDonald in the 3-0 ruling, which upheld a Superior Court judge's decision.

"The purpose of the (federal law) is to combat recreational drug use, not to regulate a state's medical practices."

Besides, McDonald said, the counties' only obligation under the California law is to process and hand out the ID cards, a requirement that poses no conflict with federal law.

State and local officers can't arrest marijuana users for violating the federal law, he said, and applications for the medical marijuana cards contain a warning that they provide no shield against federal authorities.

Although the state's decision to allow medical marijuana use "arguably undermines the goals" of the federal law, McDonald said, county governments are unaffected by any such conflicts and therefore have no right to sue to overturn the entire state law.

San Diego County's lawyer, Senior Deputy County Counsel Thomas Bunton, said county supervisors may decide by next week whether to appeal to the state Supreme Court. He said a future appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court is also possible.

"We think the court should have found that California's medical marijuana laws are pre-empted by the federal law," Bunton said. "We think (the ID card law) requires us to issue cards in support of conduct that violates federal law."

Advocacy groups that joined the state in defense of its law said the ruling shows that states are free to chart their own course on medical marijuana.

The decision "provides yet further confirmation that states need not march in lockstep with federal policy," said Adam Wolf, an American Civil Liberties Union lawyer representing the National Association for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.

He said the court issued "a stinging rebuke to the misguided attempt of a few rogue counties to undermine the will of California's voters and the well-being of thousands of sick and dying patients."

In a separate case Thursday, the Third District Court of Appeal in Sacramento became the second to declare unconstitutional a 2003 state law that limited the amount of marijuana a patient could possess for medical use and remain exempt from prosecution.

The ruling would leave those decisions up to local governments, or to local prosecutors and juries in counties that lacked an official standard. The law, part of the same legislation that established the state-approved identification cards, allowed patients to possess up to 8 ounces of dried marijuana, or up to six mature marijuana plants or 12 immature plants, unless a doctor had recommended greater amounts to meet the patient's needs.

The Third District Court ruled that the law conflicted with the 1996 medical marijuana initiative, Proposition 215, which set no numerical limits on the amount of marijuana a patient could possess.

An appeals court in Los Angeles reached the same conclusion in May, a ruling that Attorney General Jerry Brown's office has appealed to the state Supreme Court.

Read the rulings

-- The San Diego ruling is available at

-- The Sacramento ruling is available at

E-mail Bob Egelko at

Thursday, July 31, 2008

DEA seizes medical marijuana confiscated in Seattle police raid


SEATTLE – The federal government is getting involved in the case of a medical marijuana patient-support group that was raided by Seattle police last week.

According to the Seattle Police Department, the Drug Enforcement Administration has taken control of the marijuana seized during the raid on the Lifevine cooperative two weeks ago.

That raid made headlines largely because police seized hundreds of medical marijuana patient files. King County Prosecutor Dan Satterberg declined to press charges against the man who runs the group, Martin Martinez, and had the files returned to him. But Seattle police didn't immediately return the 12 ounces of dried marijuana bud or several pounds of less potent leaves, and the DEA took them last Friday.

A spokeswoman for the DEA said she had no immediate comment.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Man shot in Mountlake Terrace standoff


A man was fatally shot early Wednesday in a standoff with police in Mountlake Terrace. Police were investigating whether the man was shot by an officer or whether he took his own life.

The incident began about 1 a.m. when police were called to the home near the intersection of 48th Avenue SW and 236th Street SW for reports of gunfire. An officer who responded heard shots and saw a man with a rifle at the window, KOMO/4 reported.

The man pointed the rifle at the officer, who fired a shot. More police surrounded the home and over the next few hours, other people came out and surrendered. A SWAT team then entered the home after 5 a.m. and found a man dead inside, KOMO/4 reported.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Auburn motorcycle officer hurt in crash


An Auburn police motorcycle officer was hit by a car and hurt while racing to an accident scene.

The officer was struck sometime after 4 p.m. on West Main Street, said Auburn Police Sgt. Scott Near.

At the time, the officer was responding to a report of a collision and had his lights and sirens on, Near said.

He was westbound on Main Street, passing vehicles by driving into the lanes of oncoming traffic.

As he approached an intersection, a woman in a Volvo station wagon, also facing westbound, turned left in front of him.

The impact left the officer with a fractured wrist, Near said. He was taken to Harborview Medical Center for treatment.

There were no other injuries in the accident.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Police investigate Everett homicide Staff

EVERETT, Wash. - Police homicide investigators are on the scene of a fatal shooting in front of a home in the 2400 block of 75th St. SE.

According to police the shooting occurred at about 5:30 a.m.

Neighbors reported hearing multiple shots being fired.

"I was asleep and I rolled over and heard shots from across the street. Two shots," said Mark Downey. "I checked the alarm clock and it was 5:32."

When police arrived they found a man's body.

"When they arrived they found a male deceased in the driveway of the residence," said Sergeant Robert Goetz of the Everett Police Department. "We're working with (a) multiple gunshot wounds victim."

Police say witnesses said they saw a vehicle leaving the scene. They have a vague description of the vehicle believed to be a Toyota pickup truck.

Police say the owner of the home told them he was "sucker punched" but is not a suspect in the shooting.

Neighbors tell KING5 News they are not surprised by the violent incident. They say a year ago they formed a neighborhood watch program to counter drug activity in the area.

"It's been a known problem house, a drug house basically. We've fought for years trying to get it shut down, " said one neighbor who did not want to be identified.

"We've got a neighborhood watch program that was started specifically because of that house and the known drug things that are happening down there," the neighbor said. " This is the first actual murder that we've had. There's been a lot of arrests and everything that have happened but this has gotten to a point where something has got to stop."

No arrests have been made as yet.

Woman who once posed as a boy arrested for violating probation

A woman who posed as a homeless, orphaned boy and befriended and abused a teenage girl has been returned to jail after state Department of Corrections officials say she had been living with a minor.

By Jennifer Sullivan

Seattle Times staff reporter

A woman who posed as a homeless, orphaned boy and befriended and abused a teenage girl has been returned to jail after state Department of Corrections officials say she had been living with a minor.

Lorelei Corpuz, 31, was sentenced in June 2007 to a year in jail for child molestation. She had been released from prison and was on community supervision, this state's version of probation, when she was arrested last Wednesday.

Department of Corrections (DOC) spokesman Chad Lewis said that Corpuz was arrested by Snohomish County sheriff's deputies for illegal contact with a minor. Because of her conviction, Corpuz had registered as a sex offender and was forbidden from having contact with children.

Lewis said that when Corpuz was arrested she had been living with an underage relative.

Corpuz will have a DOC administrative hearing at the Snohomish County Jail on Aug. 4. At that time corrections staff will review her criminal history, the new crime she is accused of and likely recommend that she serve additional jail time, Lewis said.

Corpuz posed as 17-year-old Mark Villanueva when she met a 14-year-old girl at Everett Mall in September 2005. The girl's parents allowed Corpuz to move into their South Everett duplex.

After moving into the home Corpuz beat and molested the girl, Snohomish County prosecutors said. The relationship was discovered when police stopped Corpuz and the teenage victim for a traffic stop in April 2007.

When sentenced in June 2007, Corpuz was given the maximum penalty under state guidelines. She had also been charged with two counts of third-degree child rape, but the charges were dropped when she pleaded guilty to the lesser charge and spared the victim from the trauma of testifying in court, authorities said.

Jennifer Sullivan: 206-464-8294 or