ASA Sues Butte County for Its Ban on Collective Cultivation

May 18, 2006

Continued raids on private patient collectives and poor enforcement of state law meet a legal roadblock

butte county, ca -- Standing up to law enforcement's disregard for the state's medical marijuana law, patient advocates filed a lawsuit today in Butte County, challenging its ban on private patient collectives. Americans for Safe Access, the nation's largest medical marijuana advocacy organization, filed a group lawsuit on behalf of a 7-person private patient collective run by David Williams. In September 2005, just prior to harvest, Butte County law enforcement conducted a warrantless search at the Williams' property in Paradise, California, and forced him to uproot and destroy more than two dozen plants or face arrest and prosecution.

"We were told that it was not lawful to grow collectively for multiple patients," 53-year old patient and collective member David Williams said of the 2005 incident. "Detective Jacob Hancock, who took part in the raid, ignored our evidence and arguments that we were in no way breaking state law." Another collective member, Rebecca Conley, was present for the raid, and pleaded with the police as her plants were being destroyed. "What they did to us and others in Butte County is unacceptable, and must be stopped," said Conley. In addition to the raid at Williams' home, Butte County was responsible for multiple other raids on similar private patient collectives in the fall of 2005.

The lawsuit filed today in Butte County Superior Court seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, as well as damages in excess of $75,000 and attorneys fees. The lawsuit names the County of Butte, District Attorney Mike Ramsey, the Butte County Sheriff, and Detective Hancock as defendants. "Not only did these officials break the spirit and letter of the state's medical marijuana law in denying patients the right to associate collectively," said ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford. "They also violated Williams' Fourth Amendment Right against unlawful search and seizure."

Because of the threat by Butte County officials to arrest and prosecute collective members who continue to cultivate, many patients in the county are fearful of what might happen to them. David Williams, however, is intent on planting a crop again this year, despite the prior harassment, intimidation, and threats of reprisal by the county. New collective members Gary Marsh, Peter Jeffers, and Bruce Thompson, along with Williams, are banking on the lawsuit to allow them to cultivate this year without interference by the county.

Elford commented further that, "medical marijuana law spells out, in no uncertain terms, that qualified patients 'who associate within the State of California in order collectively or cooperatively to cultivate marijuana for medical purposes, shall not solely on the basis of that fact be subject to state criminal sanctions.'1 Butte County and others that choose to ignore this law should know that they will meet with legal resistance at the hands of patients and their advocates."

For a copy of the lawsuit filed today against Butte County: http://www.safeaccessnow.org/downloads/Butte_Complaint.pdf

1 Health & Safety Code Section 11362.775

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Americans for Safe Access (www.SafeAccessNow.org) 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.



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