The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

ASA Media Liaison Kris Hermes 510-681-6361

CA Supreme Court Lets Stand Landmark Medical Marijuana Cultivation Ruling

Appellate court ruling protects collective cultivation and affirms civil actions by patients


The California Supreme Court yesterday refused
to review County of Butte v. Superior Court, a landmark
appellate court ruling that protects the right of medical marijuana
patients and their primary caregivers to collectively cultivate. The
landmark ruling by California's Third Appellate District Court also
affirmed a patient's ability to take civil action when their right to
collectively cultivate is violated by law enforcement. The Butte
case involved a private
7-patient medical marijuana collective in Paradise, California.

nationwide medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access
(ASA) filed a
lawsuit in May 2006 on behalf of 56-year-old David Williams and six
other collective members after Butte County Sheriffs conducted a
warrantless search of his home in 2005.
Williams was forced by law enforcement to uproot more than
two-dozen plants or face arrest and prosecution. Contrary to state law,
Williams was told by the
Sheriff that his collectively cultivated medical marijuana was illegal.

"By refusing to review this case, the California Supreme Court sends a
strong message that local law enforcement must uphold the medical
laws of the state and not competing federal laws," said Joe Elford,
ASA Chief Counsel and the attorney that litigated the case on behalf of
Williams. The appellate court ruling from July 2009 concluded that,
"[T]he deputy was
acting under color of California law, not federal law. Accordingly, the
propriety of his conduct is measured by California law."

In its landmark decision, the appellate court asserted that the
Compassionate Use Act of 1996 is not simply an affirmative defense to
criminal sanctions: "[W]e see an
opportunity for an individual to request the same constitutional
guarantee of due process available to all individuals, no matter what
their status, under the state Constitution. The fact that this case
involves medical marijuana and a qualified medical marijuana patient
does not change these fundamental constitutional rights or an
individual's right to assert them."

The appellate court ruling upheld Butte County Superior Court
Judge Barbara Roberts' ruling from September 2007, in which she states
that seriously ill patients cultivating collectively "should not be
required to risk criminal penalties and the stress and expense of a
criminal trial in order to assert their rights." Judge Roberts' ruling
also rejected Butte County's policy of requiring all members to
physically participate in the cultivation, thereby allowing collective
members to "contribute financially."

ASA filed the Williams lawsuit after receiving repeated
reports of unlawful behavior by Butte County law enforcement, as well
as by other police agencies throughout the state. After uncovering
Butte County's de facto ban on medical marijuana patient collectives,
ASA decided to pursue the case to show that collectives and
cooperatives are protected under state law.

Further information:
CA Supreme Court disposition (Case # S175219):
Ruling by California's Third Appellate District Court:

Information on Butte Case:

Americans for Safe Access is the nation's largest organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research.