Sheriff, caregivers want pot-law conflict ended

By: Roger Phelps, The Telegraph
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Cautious optimism is had by El Dorado County Sheriff Jeff Neves and by local medical-marijuana caregivers that a recent U.S. Supreme Court action will help end the conflict between California and federal marijuana laws. The high court declined Dec. 1 to review a California appellate court decision finding that federal pot law could not preempt the state’s Compassionate Use Act of 1996, with which voters legalized medical marijuana use. El Dorado deputies already honor Prop. 215, Neves said. When proper documentation is show by a person possessing medical marijuana, no action is taken. However, Neves’ department still faces legal jeopardy if it cites and seizes marijuana from a person who later is able to document wrongful seizure, he said. In the case of Felix Kha, Garden Grove police refused to return wrongfully seized marijuana, saying the transfer would violate federal law. “It’s still a conflict from a technical point of view,” Neves said. “I commit a crime to uphold the law.” Joining Neves in hoping that the recent federal court stance will usher a change in federal law are caregivers Elaine Roller and Matt Vaughn of the El Dorado County Medical Marijuana Caregivers Association. “I hope this decision sticks – it’ll help so many people,” said Roller, a volunteer. Vaughn said, “I’d say the federal argument (of preemption) is over. It will depend on a new administration to give new marching orders from the White House.” Vaughn, executive director of the caregivers’ association, said there’s a long way to go, citing federal Drug Enforcement Agency letters to landlords of medical-marijuana dispensaries in California warning landlords they are breaking current federal law. Roller and Vaughn said they found encouraging an op-ed piece published Dec. 5 by the conservative Wall Street Journal marking the 75th anniversary of repeal in the U.S. of alcoholic-beverage prohibition and urging a repeal of marijuana prohibition. The piece was authored by Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance non-profit. The Telegraph’s Roger Phelps can be reached at, or post a comment at