California Supreme Court Lets Collective Marijuana Cultivation Continue

Rural sheriff’s departments in California may have to find a new pastime to replace bullying medical marijuana growers. In a major victory for pot advocates, the California Supreme Court — right around harvest time! — has refused to review a landmark appellate court ruling protecting the right of medical marijuana patients and their caregivers to collectively grow weed.

The 2-1 ruling by California’s Third Appellate District Court also affirmed patients’ ability to take civil action when their right to collectively cultivate marijuana is violated by law enforcement. The case, County of Butte v. Superior Court, involved a private seven-patient medical marijuana collective in Paradise, California (oh! the delicious irony — props to God or whomever is responsible).

Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a nationwide medical marijuana advocacy group, filed a May 2006 lawsuit on behalf David Williams, 56, and half a dozen other collective members after the Butte County Sheriff’s Department conducted a warrantless search of Williams’ home in 2005. The officers forced Williams to uproot more than two dozen plants, threatening him with arrest and prosecution if he didn’t comply.

Williams was incorrectly told by Deputy Jacob Hancock that his collectively cultivated marijuana was illegal. California state law, in fact, does allow for collective cultivation.

Butte County Sheriff/Coroner Perry Reniff and his department were attempting to impose a de facto ban on medical marijuana patient collectives, according to ASA.

“By refusing to review this case, the California Supreme Court sends a strong message that local law enforcement must uphold the medical marijuana laws of the state and not competing federal laws,” said Joe Elford, ASA chief counsel, who litigated the case for Williams. According to the July 2009 appellate court ruling, the “deputy was acting under color of California law, not federal law. Accordingly, the propriety of his conduct is measured by California law.”

The court went further, stating that to deny medical marijuana patients protection from warrantless intrusions and seizures by law enforcement “would surely shock the sensibilities of the voters who approved [Proposition 215].”

The landmark decision said that the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 is not simply an affirmative defense to criminal sanctions, holding that it consisted of “…an opportunity for an individual to request the same constitutional guarantee of due process available to all individuals, no matter what their status, under state state Constitution. The fact that this case involves medical marijuana and a qualified medial 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 stated that seriously ill patients cultivating marijuana collectively “should not be required to risk criminal penalties and the stress and expense of a criminal trial in order to assert their rights. 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” rather than with sweat equity.

The Butte County Sheriff’s Department was already known for its zealous anti-marijuana enforcement. The first medical marijuana supplier in the state to be prosecuted in federal court after the passage of Proposition 215 was originally arrested by Butte County officers. Chico resident Bryan Epis received a 10-year sentence in federal court in 2002 for medical marijuana cultivation after Butte County officers raided his home in 1997 and seized 458 plants.

Observers of the medical marijuana scene say the court decision could have repercussions statewide in other (predominantly rural) counties with pot-phobic local law enforcement. Elford said he has received hundreds of complaints from medical marijuana patients about local anti-pot cops seizing their drugs on the logic that “we’ll take it from you and let the courts sort it out.”

Repeated reports of problematic behavior by Butte County law enforcement, as well as other police agencies throughout the state, resulted in the filing of the Williams lawsuit, according to ASA.

“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,” said ASA media liaison Kris Hermes.

“In addition to protecting patients’ rights to collectively cultivate, the Court has reaffirmed that medical marijuana patients enjoy the same constitutional rights as everyone else,” said Elford, “including the ability to file civil rights actions when those rights are violated.”

– Article from SF Weekly on September 24, 2009.



  1. Anonymous on

    I hope the defendants in this suit are the individual ossifers. They should pay for this (and their lawyers, and the plaintiff’s lawyer, and damages) out of their own pockets. If the suit is against the Butte Co. Sheriff’s Dept. then I fear the taxpayer will end up paying and the ossifers will walk away laughing.

  2. one12alpha on

    “it is even possible that this kind of phone is one that the narcs use to listen to you and your friends talking without warrants”

    Excellent point you bring up. Though I believe they can listen in on any phone line. But if they can establish that these adds were successful in grabing this select audience of marijuana users/advocates, it would make their job all the easyer.

    My suggestion is to use a prepay phone that you activate online. I had a phone regisered to John Doe, of Weed California, while I reside in North Carolina. Sure they could find my location by the phone it self, but it would make it difficult to establish that the phone was mine to start. Especially because I always bought minutes with cash, and never used any Debt/credit cards to add minutes.

    At any rate, these adds are quite irritating. I make an attempt to avoid anything overly advertised. To me, if the product is good, it will sell it self…without spamming forums, or my TV, or the radio, or any other source of entertainment.

  3. joseph on

    do not buy this phone.. it utterly sucks, as do it’s marketing genius-staff who posts off topic garbage and thinks we’re going to reconsider how bad this phone is. android phones are the way to go.

  4. Riptorn Overkill on

    People need to stand up for theyr’e rights. This is a classic example where justice has prevailed for law abiding citizens. Cops need to go bust real criminals for a change instead of busting those who pose no threat to them or society.

  5. Anonymous on

    do not buy this kind of phone, they use the money you give them to litter your websites with unpaid for adverts like this one selling phones and shoes. it is even possible that this kind of phone is one that the narcs use to listen to you and your friends talking without warrants.

  6. happy 420 on

    Sony Ericsson’s K618i is a 3G phone exclusive with its features and stylish look. The phone gives you the new experience of handling wireless gadget. This phone is all-round entertainer will keep you amused for ages. Take hours of music with you. Make video calls. Enjoy 3D gaming. The fun never stops. A built-in 2-megapixel camera can be accessed via the side-mounted camera button which flips the screen on its side for a landscape view, to take photos.

  7. Caber1 on

    It’s as if there has been a long coming awakening. We are finally starting to get back to what a lot of this is about,”our rights” as citizens and tax payers.
    Yes, when something is illegal and I have to fight it, that is life. But when something is legal they should have to respect my rights as they would expect the same from me.
    Is it so much to ask for?