|AN END TO FEDERAL PRESSURE|
MATTHEW PAPPAS EXPOSES A CONGRESSIONAL GLITCH
In February 2010, after weeks in a small room with stacks of documents on congressional history, Long Beach attorney Matthew S. Pappas found the fodder he was looking for, a federal slip of the tongue that would grant the same rights to voters around the nation that had been granted to voters in DC. And, according to his timetable, it may just be a matter of months before this whole ugly episode is behind us.
Please explain the opportune hiccup that you found in the DC legislation.
Congress has the authority to make different laws for the District of Columbia. It's like a super-legislature, so it can do that. But it can't do that when what it does runs afoul of the constitution. The big issue is this: Did Congress give the citizens of DC a right to marijuana, or a right to vote? Our position is that they gave the citizens the right to vote.
Bill HR-3170 allows the District to conduct--the word "conduct" is key--to conduct and implement its law on marijuana, as has been done in various states. What it's saying is, we're giving the voters the right to conduct a referendum. It provides that right to voters in Washington DC.
Essentially I think that Congress put that in knowing somebody's gonna find this and they're going to use it, because of a lot of partisan gridlock they're leaving that up for the courts to decide. That's what they're doing. And I think the Obama Administration has stepped up Federal action to prompt that along.
So how do you take that discovery and use it as an argument in the California court system?
The problem has been that we need a voter that has standing to claim that they were disenfranchised and treated differently than the Washington DC Voters. And you would think, "Well, isn't that everyone who voted for prop 215?" No, it is not, because prop 215 survives federal preemption because state voters only voted to decriminalize state law prohibitions.
So I filed the case Pack vs City of Long Beach, a very controversial case. People don't seem to understand why that's filed. That's because Long Beach passed a law that actually tried to legalize and permit marijuana in Long Beach. But nobody wants a decision that says there's been federal pre-emption, 'cause nobody wants a voter to have the right to bring a fundamental rights claim of equal protection.
Then I filed a case called James vs. United States. Because once those letters went out in January of this year, and we had the final rule in DC, I filed a motion before the 9th circuit seeking to prohibit the US attorney from sending those letters because of equal protection.
Normally the 9th Circuit will just deny motions, but it didn't. [They denied us, but they also suggested how we should file a new case.] That would indicate they're telling us what to do. So we filed a new case in District court.
And, based on statements the district court judge has made, he is clearly interested
in the issues and concerns of the disabled plaintiffs.
Besides an end to federal scrutiny of cannabis dispensaries, what other consequences could this have?
The benefit of the ADA [Americans with Disabilities Act] is that under title 2 these cities and the states are gonna be liable for damages. Boy they're mouths opened wide when they learned that. It's retroactive. For all the years that they've been discriminatory, every single one of them, for every single patient that's been harmed, they will end up paying those people millions of dollars. And when they get into the pocketbook, they'll stop discriminating against patients.
What advice do you have for the other states that find themselves in this position?
Folks need to bring cases under the ADA, like AIDS hospice cases and methadone clinic cases. All of those kinds of cases are directly on point with medical marijuana. These cities, these sates can't be discriminating. If their legislatures are, if their city officials are, they're subject to damages under the ADA, and immediate injunctive relief to stop the behavior. So that would be my recommendation to people in various states. Start thinking about the ADA and your states disability laws.
How long have you been involved in fighting for medical marijuana patients?
The only reason I do these things is for my daughter. My daughter was seriously injured when she was assaulted. She had to have emergency brain surgery she was in a coma for 6 weeks. They prescribed her opiates. They made her constipated they were not good. She switched to medical cannabis. That was effective for her, but now she's discriminated against. She's one of these people that looks perfectly normal, but without that medication shed have a lot of trouble.
In four or five months, once this issue is solved, I will quit the practice of law, because that's not what I want to do, and I hate it. But I'm going to ensure that my daughter does not have to be treated differently than other people.
There you have it. A big thanks to Mr. Pappas for speaking with the Green Door. His work could lead us to the light at the end of the tunnel. Just yesterday, in one of Mr. Pappas' cases, City of Lake Forest vs. Evergreen Holistic Collective, the California Court of Appeals ruled that California cities cannot ban medical marijuana dispensaries so long as they cultivate cannabis at the same location. " Progress is being made. Stay tuned!