Newshawk: The Kubby Files
Last Tuesday a group of medical marijuana activists led by Proposition 215 co-author and registered nurse Anna Boyce presented the Orange County Board of Supervisors a petition asking it to begin implementing the medical marijuana law California voters approved three years ago.
The supervisors greeted the petition with stony silence. Afterward, however, Assistant Sheriff George Jaramillo told reporters that the matter is "significantly more complicated than that." The problem, he said, is that Prop. 215 contradicts federal law.
Mr. Jaramillo told us on Friday that it isn't that potential conflict that's so important as the fact that there's no clear policy for the Sheriff's Department to follow. He is aware of the following, for example.
Article III, Section 3.5 of the California Constitution (adopted in 1978) states that "An administrative agency, including an administrative agency created by the Constitution or an initiative statute, has no power:...(c.) to declare a statute unenforceable, or to refuse to enforce a statute, on the basis that federal law or federal regulations prohibit the enforcement of such statute unless an appellate court has made a determination that the enforcement of such a statute is prohibited by federal law or federal regulations."
No appellate court has done so in regard to Prop. 215. In fact, no legal challenge has been filed seeking to invalidate the law on the basis of a conflict with federal laws or regulations - or for any reason.
This country has gone a long way in the last 70 years or so in the direction of completely centralized power, with the national government calling all the shots. But it hasn't gone all the way yet. The attitude of state officials, when a potential conflict between state and federal laws is perceived, still should be to enforce state law and let the national government use the courts to change the situation if necessary.
And it turns out the California Constitution (in a provision adopted in 1978) explicitly requires that course of action. Our conclusion? Government officials are required by the California Constitution to enforce and implement Prop. 215 unless and until an appellate court orders them not to do so.
Because of a threatened gubernatorial veto the Legislature couldn't come up with guidelines. The state attorney general could issue guidelines but he hasn't. In Orange County the Board of Supervisors should act and act quickly.