Judge orders closing of six California marijuana clubs

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — A federal judge struck a possibly fatal blow to medical marijuana clubs Thursday, saying he would order closure of six Northern California clubs for violating federal laws against distributing drugs.
The 1996 ballot initiative that legalized medical marijuana under California law does not override the federal ban on marijuana, said U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer.
“A state law which purports to legalize the distribution of marijuana for any purpose … even a laudable one … directly conflicts with federal law,” Breyer wrote.
He rejected the clubs’ argument that they were entitled to furnish the drug because their customers, many of whom suffer from AIDS or cancer, cannot survive without marijuana to ease the pain and side effects of therapy.
Breyer said a “medical necessity” defense might be available in individual cases, but not for a club with a large number of patients with different diseases.
San Francisco’s largest medical marijuana club, now called the Cannabis Healing Center, said it would defy the order, risk a contempt-of-court charge, and offer a “medical necessity” defense when brought to trial.
“We plan to continue serving our sick and dying patients. It would be against moral law for us to do otherwise,” said Hazel Rodgers, the 79-year-old glaucoma sufferer who became the club’s director last month.
The ruling covers only the six clubs that the Justice Department chose to target: two in San Francisco and one each in Oakland, southern Marin County, Santa Cruz and Ukiah.
U.S. Attorney Michael Yamaguchi said all marijuana clubs in the state should close voluntarily in light of the ruling.
“Federal law is clear and Judge Breyer’s opinion is clear — the distribution or cultivation of marijuana is unlawful,” he said.