Source: Sacramento Bee (CA)
Author: Ed Fletcher -- Bee Staff Writer
Published: Wednesday, December 22, 2004
Copyright: 2004 The Sacramento Bee
Contact: [email protected]
Calling it an act of "retaliation," a nationally recognized medical
marijuana advocate says she's being forced to prove to California
officials that she should still be allowed to drive.
Diane Monson, one of two Northern Californians testing the federal
government's strict stance against medical pot in a case before the U.S.
Supreme Court, received a Dec. 6 notice from the Department of Motor
Vehicles requiring a review of her driving qualifications "in the
interest of your personal safety and the safety of others using the
By late Tuesday, however, the department changed its tune, indefinitely
postponing a hearing that had been scheduled for Thursday.
"Upon being alerted by the news media to the situation involving Diane
Monson, high-ranking DMV officials acted immediately to postpone the
Thursday driver safety hearing, pending a thorough internal review to
determine all the circumstances surrounding this matter," DMV spokesman
Bill Branch said in a prepared statement.
Monson's attorney, David Michael, applauded the news. "What the DMV did
was the right thing," he said.
Without the media attention, he said, his client "would have been stuck
in a bureaucratic morass."
Michael questioned the re-examination process and wondered if there were
others whose driving qualifications were being questioned quietly.
"I don't know who else is being subjected to these types of hearings,"
Re-examinations are typically triggered by questions from a family
member, doctor or traffic officer about someone's driving ability, but
DMV spokesman Steve Haskins said that with the form available online, it
could have been initiated by anyone.
"Anybody could have reported her for any number of reasons," Haskins
said. "We have a responsibility to look into these reports to make sure
people are driving safely."
In the 2002-03 fiscal year, 67,992 of the state's more than 22.5 million
drivers were required to undergo re-examinations, Haskins said, and of
those, 9,636 drivers had their driving privileges revoked.
Monson, an Oroville resident who uses marijuana three or four times a
day to ease back pain and spasms, said she had no idea who started the
She has a clean driving record, according to state records, and she
could offer no explanation for the re-examination letter other than her
notoriety as a medical marijuana user.
"I feel somewhat that this is a retaliation for my status as a medical
marijuana user," Monson told reporters at a news conference on the
Just days before the notice of reexamination arrived in the mail, Monson
noted that she received her renewed license - good though 2010.
Michael wondered aloud how the safety hearing would be conducted, should
the process go forward.
If Monson was identified because of her back problems, how many other
Californians would fit the same criteria, he wondered? Would a doctor
decide if she's in too much pain to drive? If her marijuana use
triggered the notice, he asked, should people on prescription
painkillers have to surrender their driving privileges?
Monson said she never drives while impaired.
The state has no legal impairment or intoxication standard similar to
the 0.8 percent blood-alcohol threshold. Impairment would have to be
proved by a field sobriety test, said Tom Marshall, spokesman for the
California Highway Patrol.
Monson and Angel McClary Raich are challenging the federal government's
authority to regulate the noncommercial growing and use of marijuana for
personal medical purposes in a state that authorizes it.
Raich does not drive, but Monson said that living some 15 miles out of
town - the last three on a steep gravel switchback road - she couldn't
get along without driving.
She said she regularly drives her Subaru Outback to meet her accounting
clients, or to go to the bank or her rental homes.
"It would truly devastate my life," she said.
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