The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford 415-573-7842 or ASA Media Liaison Kris Hermes 510-681-6361

Judge to Hear Contempt Charges for Montebello's Defiance of Medical Marijuana Law

City refused to return patient's property despite court order and established case law


A superior court judge will hear oral
arguments Tuesday in a case that charges the City of Montebello with
contempt for refusing to return a medical marijuana patient's property
despite a court order and established case law. National advocacy group
Americans for Safe Access (ASA) took on the case of medical marijuana
patient Terry Walker after Montebello repeatedly spurned Walker's
efforts to seek the return of his wrongfully seized property.
"Montebello has absolutely no legal leg to stand on," said ASA Chief
Counsel Joe Elford, who will be arguing Tuesday on behalf of Walker.
"The city cannot brazenly defy a court order as well as established
case law on medical marijuana without facing the consequences."

Coincidentally, the Montebello contempt hearing comes less than a week
after the Montebello Country Club hosted an anti-medical marijuana
training for law enforcement, which was organized by the California
Narcotics Officers Association (CNOA). Advocates argued that the CNOA
training on the "eradication" of medical marijuana dispensaries was
blatantly contemptuous of state law and held protests last Thursday
outside the country club.

What: Oral arguments in medical marijuana case
charging the City of Montebello with contempt

When: Tuesday, October 13th at 8:30am

Los Angeles Superior Court, Department 122 at 210 West
Temple Street, Los Angeles

The police officer responsible for overseeing Walker's property, as
well as other
Montebello city officials, will be cross-examined on Tuesday as to
their role in the obstruction of Walker's rights. The contempt brief
filed by ASA in December of 2008 points to the California Code of
Civil Procedure, which
makes punishable by contempt of court "disobedience of any lawful
judgment, order, or process of the court." In addition, ASA's brief
states that, "courts have the inherent power to punish acts that
interfere with the orderly conduct of proceedings," such as those in
Walker's case.

On October 15, 2004, local
police seized marijuana plants, growing equipment, and personal
correspondence from the Montebello home of Terry Walker. Police
criminally charged Walker, irrespective of his status as a medical
marijuana patient. Walker's criminal case was soon after dismissed and
a court order was issued for the return of his property.
However, despite Walker's court order, the City of Montebello refused
several occasions to return any of his property. "Given recent case law
requiring police and local officials to respect
state law and return wrongfully seized medical marijuana, the City
of Montebello has a clear obligation to adhere," continued Elford.
"This blatant contempt for
the rule of law is unacceptable and cities like Montebello will be
called out if such conduct continues."

In November 2007, the California Fourth District Court of Appeal issued
a 41-page decision rejecting the argument that the state's medical
marijuana law is preempted by federal marijuana laws. The court of
appeal ruled that "it is not the job of the local police to
enforce the federal drug laws." The case City of Garden Grove v.
Superior Court
involved medical marijuana patient and Garden Grove
resident Felix Kha who was charged after a routine traffic stop and 1/3
of an ounce of medical marijuana was seized. As a result of the
appellate court
decision, the City of Garden Grove, and all other localities in
California, are now obligated to return wrongfully seized medical
marijuana. In December of 2008, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to
review Garden Grove's appeal.

For further information:

ASA's December 2008 contempt brief filed in Los Angeles Superior Court:

2007 Garden Grove Decision by the California Fourth Appellate
District Court:

Flyer for last week's anti-medical marijuana training in Montebello:

Americans for Safe Access is the nation's largest organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research.