CHOWCHILLA, Calif. – A Chowchilla (search) man who had a pound of medicinal marijuana seized by police says he will go to court to get the pot back.
Michael Celli, 42, who says he needs marijuana to ease chronic migraine headaches, had hoped to receive his stash on Monday after a judge ordered Chowchilla police to return it, citing a 1996 California referendum legalizing marijuana for medicinal use (search).
But Police Chief John Robinson, worried about being implicated in a crime, called the Drug Enforcement Agency (search) instead. As a result, the freezer bag full of pot will remain in an evidence locker until federal agents pick it up.
"It was suggested by the district attorney's office to confer with the DEA," Robinson said. "If I release it to (Celli), I can be arrested for a felony, which is trafficking and distributing."
Celli, a former granite worker, was booked on suspicion of drug possession with intent to sell on April 25 while being issued a citation for illegal parking. He said he showed officers a card to prove he had medical reasons for using marijuana, but an officer laughed.
The Chowchilla police chief said Celli had "one of these cards you can buy on the street corner in San Francisco," not a doctor's prescription as mandated by state law.
Robinson also said he's following a U.S. Supreme Court decision two years ago that declared the state medical marijuana statute does not take precedence over federal drug laws.
DEA spokesman Richard Meyer said the agency is studying the situation, "We're looking at our options," Meyer said Tuesday. "There are no decisions now whether to bring federal charges. That's up to the U.S. Attorney's office. The mission of the DEA is to target large-scale distributors of illegal drugs."
William McPike, Celli's attorney, claims the Madera County court dealt with the federal law issue when it ordered the pot returned.
But Meyer said that marijuana use of any kind is illegal in the eyes of the federal government.
"The DEA does not recognize medical marijuana because there is no such thing," he said. "Marijuana is a dangerous drug that should remain illegal."