Medical Marijuana

Drug Addict, Patient, Whatever

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Last April, Rose Johnson, a 53-year-old resident of Atwater, California, went to the local DMV office to renew her driver's license. A DMV agent noticed that Johnson was moving slowly, due to neck and back injuries caused by a 1990 car crash, and recommended that the department re-examine her license. During this process, the DMV learned that Johnson uses marijuana to relieve her neck and back pain, as she is permitted to do under state law. Although Johnson has a spotless driving record and never drives under the influence of marijuana, using the drug only at night, the DMV decided she was "incapable of safely operating a motor vehicle because of [an] addiction to, or habitual use of, [a] drug."

This week Americans for Safe Access (ASA) sued the DMV on Johnson's behalf, arguing that the department's decision to revoke her driver's license "based solely on her status as a qualified medical marijuana patient under California law" constitutes an abuse of discretion that violates the Compassionate Use Act (which recognizes marijuana as a medicine) and Johnson's constitutional right to direct the course of her medical treatment. Although a DMV spoksman told the San Francisco Chronicle the department does not have a blanket policy of taking away the licenses of medical marijuana users, instead treating cannabis as it would a prescription drug that could cause impairment, ASA says it knows of similar cases in several other counties. "The DMV cannot simply disregard California's medical marijuana law," says ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford, who is representing Johnson in her claim against the DMV. "When the voters of California enacted the Compassionate Use Act, they never intended to authorize the DMV to strip medical marijuana patients of their driver's licenses."

The text of the suit is available here (PDF).

[via The Drug War Chronicle]