Medical Marijuana Advocates Get Calif. DMV Change Qualified Patients No Longer Subject to Arbitrary License Revocation
The ASA legal team saw the fruits of another big victory for patients in March, when the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) issued a new policy on driver’s licenses that ends discrimination against state medical marijuana patients.
ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford
As of March 2, the DMV Driver Safety Procedure Manual now says that “use of medicinal marijuana approved by a physician should be handled in the same manner as any other prescription medication which may affect safe driving.” The change means that medical marijuana use now “does not, in itself, constitute grounds for a license withdrawal action,” as it had in the past.
The change in DMV policy stems from a lawsuit filed by ASA on behalf of Rose Johnson, 53, whose driving license was revoked because she uses medical marijuana on the advice of her doctor. Despite having driven for 37 years without an accident or a ticket, the DMV revoked Johnson’s license last July. According to the DMV, Johnson was no longer able to safely operate a motor vehicle “because of…[an] addiction to, or habitual use of, [a] drug.” Their evidence? Her doctor’s recommendation for medical marijuana.
ASA filed suit on Johnson’s behalf in November, and DMV announced their new policy in January, before her case was heard. Johnson was given a driving test, which she passed, and DMV reinstated her license.
“The new DMV policy is a significant change,” said ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford, who handled the action. “Drivers will no longer have their licenses suspended or revoked simply because of their status as medical marijuana patients.”
ASA had reports that the DMV had targeted medical marijuana patients in at least eight California counties, including Alameda, Butte, Contra Costa, Glenn, Merced, Placer, Sacramento, and Sonoma. License suspensions and revocations by the DMV were done under cover of calling the drivers “drug abusers,” though they were based on nothing more than the person’s status as a state-qualified medical marijuana patient.
“This DMV policy change represents a victory for patients, which puts us closer to full implementation of California’s medical marijuana law,” said Elford.