Disabled Patients Sue Anaheim For Closing Dispensaries

A group of medical marijuana patients has filed a lawsuit against the city of Anaheim alleging that the city's cooperation with the federal government's crackdown on dispensaries violates state law. According to the lawsuit, the law in question, the California Disabled Person's Act, (CDPA), "prohibits laws, rules, policies, procedures, and actions by state, county, and city  governments that facially or through disparate impact discriminate against qualified disabled individuals."

Contrary to the stereotype of medical marijuana smokers as mostly young males with ailments like supposed sports injuries, anxiety or insomnia, all of the patients named in the lawsuit are seriously ill and disabled, including Marla James, a wheelchair-bound amputee. James says she and the other plaintiffs are all members of a group called Patient Med-Aid that was shut down when the DEA subjected the building's landlord to an asset forfeiture lawsuit--despite the fact that, unlike all the other collectives targeted by the feds, Patient Med-Aid is not an actual pot dispensary.

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"Patient Med-Aid is not your normal collective," explains James. "It's not open to the public. The only patients that can become members are those that are seriously ill, people with AIDS, cancer, MS, people in wheelchairs, people that are terminal. This is what 215 was meant to be, not for people with backaches, but for seriously ill patients who need medical marijuana."

According to James, all the patients are low-income and receive free marijuana from growers who carry paperwork documenting who receives the cannabis, and the courier that carries the marijuana to each patient's home also carries paperwork not only documenting the doctor's written recommendation for marijuana, but also the patient's specific illnesses. "There is no money changing hands," adds James. " It's a cooperative rather than a collective, because all of the patients work together with the growers, so we don't have a middleman, which is what a dispensary normally is."

James adds that the building subjected to the federal forfeiture lawsuit was not even used to store marijuana but rather to warehouse medical supplies such as wheelchairs.  "The DEA called this a collective and did not even look or investigate and they sent the owner of the building a forfeiture letter saying if you don't throw these people out, we'll take the building," she claims. Meanwhile, James points out, Anaheim has no actual marijuana ban on the books, and its moratorium against the pot clubs had expired when the city invited the feds to move in.

"Because of what Anaheim did--calling in the DEA, closing the collectives that were there, they are stopping us from getting our medication. They have closed every collective. When you are a municipality, you have to go through a process in calling the federal government, because a municipality is an entity of a state, and state law says we are allowed to have medical marijuana."

The attorney who filed the lawsuit on behalf of James in Matthew Pappas, the attorney who successfully sued Long Beach over its controversial lottery system, and who filed an unsuccessful lawsuit against Costa Mesa and Lake Forest alleging that those cities' bans on pot clubs violated the Americans With Disabilities Act. James was a plaintiff in that lawsuit as well. 

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