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Thursday, January 17, 2008

ACLU Sues Sheriff’s Deputies to Uphold New Mexico Marijuana Law

I see Sheriff's deputies in Eddy County, acting as part of the so-called Pecos Valley Drug Task Force, have nothing better to do than harrass a disabled individual who is legally allowed to ease his pain under New Mexico's medical marijuana law, which was enacted last year. I wonder who they think they are protecting, and under which state law. Can they possibly believe this is a justified use of taxpayer dollars? Thank goodness the ACLU is standing with the victim of this horrible (and illegal) treatment by law enforcement officials who apparently believe they are above the law and are certainly without compassion or wisdom.

From the American Civil Liberties Union of NM:
CARLSBARD – A paraplegic man is suing Eddy County Sheriff's Deputies for seizing marijuana plants and equipment to grow marijuana, which he uses to control pain resulting from a spinal cord injury.  Leonard French received a license to cultivate and use small quantities of marijuana for medicinal purposes from the State of New Mexico under the Lynn and Erin Compassionate Use Act. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of New Mexico, which represents French, says the deputies' actions violated not only that law, but also state forfeiture laws and a constitutional prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures.

"The New Mexico state legislature, in its wisdom, passed the Compassionate Use Act after carefully considering the benefits the drug provides for people who suffer from uncontrollable pain, and weighing those benefits against the way federal law considers cannabis,” said Peter Simonson, ACLU Executive Director.  “With their actions against Mr. French, Eddy County officials thwarted that humane, sensible law, probably for no other reason than that they believed federal law empowered them to do so."

On September 4, 2007, at least four Eddy County deputies, acting as members of the Pecos Valley Drug Task Force, arrived at French's home in Malaga, New Mexico and announced, "We're here about the marijuana." Thinking that the deputies had arrived to check his compliance with the compassionate use law, French presented the deputies with his state license to grow marijuana, then showed them his hydroponic equipment, including two small marijuana plants and three dead sprouts. The deputies seized the equipment and plants, and later turned them over to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration. French has not been charged with any violations of federal drug laws. 

A physician prescribed marijuana for French after other medications lost their effectiveness in controlling pain and severe muscle spasms stemming from a 1987 motorcycle accident.

Simonson said, "With the Compassionate Use Act, New Mexico embarked on an innovative project to help people who suffer from painful conditions like Mr. French's.  The law cannot succeed if the threat of arrest by county and local law enforcement hangs over participants in the program.  With this lawsuit, we hope to clear the way for the State to implement a sensible, conservative program to apply a drug that traditionally has been considered illicit for constructive purposes."

The ACLU’s complaint is available online at: online (pdf). For more information about the national ACLU Drug Law Reform Project, visit this page.

Editor's Note: To become a card-carrying member of the ACLU of NM, click here.

January 17, 2008 at 12:11 PM in Civil Liberties, Crime, Healthcare, Justice | Permalink


Unfortunately these kinds of "law enforcement" zealots are everywhere these days. They love the power they have to pick on the defenseless. It's really important that we support the ACLU while we have any civil liberties left.

Posted by: Old Dem | Jan 17, 2008 4:06:28 PM

Beyond the idiocy of arresting users of medical marijuana is the supreme hypocrisy of the War on Drugs. There is no sound societal benefit for keeping marijuana illegal. There are some real reasons that marijuana remains illegal - 1) some sort of misplaced religious fervor, the same kind that forced prohibition and that was rightly denounced when prohibition was overturned, and 2) our own government agencies are making money from the sale of narcotics, 3) corporations that deal in incarceration (Wackenhut) are making money from the government's crusade to target users with Draconian penalties, 4)the War on Drugs is representative of the institutional racism that still exists in our country, as law enforcement profiles blacks and hispanics for drug offenses, and we all know that people who can afford a lawyer can beat the rap - thus making the War on Drugs an element of continued class warfare, 5) drug use, particularly marijuana and hallucinogenics such as LSD and psilocybin, makes individuals more resistant to elements of societal conformity, more likely to resist the status quo.

I have more about this on my webpage, excerpts from Sam Harris' "End of Faith" and statements from NORML. http://www.call4democracy.org/article.asp?AID=788

Posted by: Jason Call | Jan 18, 2008 7:40:05 AM