Butte County patients win medical marijuana ruling by state's top court

September 24, 2009

Denny Walsh, Sacramento Bee

Once out of the hands of the Butte County Sheriff's Department, seven people growing medical marijuana as a collective have had a spectacular run through the courts. The California Supreme Court on Wednesday denied review and let stand a 3rd District Court of Appeal opinion in July upholding the right of patients to collective growth of marijuana. The opinion also affirmed the ability of patients to sue if their right to collectively cultivate is violated by local law enforcement.

The 3rd District's decision upheld a 2007 ruling by Butte Superior Court Judge Barbara Roberts that seriously ill people 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."

The county had argued grower David Williams should have allowed himself to be arrested and then sought vindication through prosecution.

Williams was forced by a sheriff's deputy in 2005 to uproot 29 of 42 plants on his Paradise property or face arrest and prosecution. Americans for Safe Access, an advocacy group, filed a lawsuit against Butte County in 2006 on behalf of Williams and the six other collective members. Roberts rejected the county's argument that California's Compassionate Use Act prohibits collective cultivation. The case now goes back to Roberts.

ASA spokesman Kris Hermes said Thursday the plaintiffs will seek damages and attorneys' fees from the county.

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