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Lawsuit invokes California Environmental Quality Act to oppose medical marijuana ban

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There have been a myriad of arguments made in California courts supporting the cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana. But as reported in the Contra Costa Times, a lawsuit filed in San Bernadino Superior Court by Riverside attorney Letitia Pepper is most certainly a first. Her suit claims that the county’s March 2011 ban on marijuana dispensaries and outdoor cultivation violates the California Environmental Quality Act.

 “I’ve actually just found even more evidence to use in my favor,” said Pepper, director of Crusaders for Patients' Rights, in a phone call earlier today. “I have an article recently published in a scientific journal about the carbon footprint of medical marijuana cultivation. It shows how 1 percent of all electricity in America is being used to grow cannabis. Not only is that a lot of greenhouse gasses being created, but it makes for a lesser product,” she explained. “What people don’t realize is that cannabis grown outside is better medically. I’ve spoken to several growers, and they all swear by it.”

Established in 1970, the CEQA requires a full analysis of the potential environmental impact of any proposed development. Pepper’s lawsuit aims to show how the county’s ban on marijuana has already had an impact on the physical environment.

“When they passed the ordinance, so many people came and testified how the ban would affect their lives,” Pepper detailed. “If they could no longer grow or have access to medical marijuana, they would be forced to face some tough alternatives. There’s the considerable expense of cultivating indoors, or the carbon footprint generated by having to drive to Los Angeles to obtain their medicine. Spread that across the 88,000 people with prescriptions for medical marijuana in San Bernadino County. I’d call that a substantial environmental impact.”

Pepper, 58, has over 30 years of legal experience, many of those years working for California government. Diagnosed with MS, the juice extracted from marijuana leaves has proven her most effective form of pain relief. The prescription meds she initially took for the diagnosis made her ill.

“It’s our constitutional right to choose herbal remedies over pharmaceutical ones,” she surmised. “Imagine if all of the Rite Aid and Walgreens pharmacies were banned. What would those people do? This is no different. I’m confident the California Supreme Court will agree with me.”

Pepper’s lawsuit is scheduled for an 11 a.m. hearing this Friday, June 15, at San Bernardino Superior Court, 303 W. Third St. in San Bernardino. She said it’s paramount that patients and supporters come out for wearing green ribbons so the judge can see the faces of the people the ban is affecting.

“Individual people do make a difference,” she stressed. “It’s only because so many people showed up and testified against the ordinance that this lawsuit is even possible. I’m hoping that even more will come out and help us repeal this unconstitutional and unnecessary ordinance.”