Pages tagged "California Supreme Court"


Maral v. Live Oak – Local Politics Matter

A local ban on all medical cannabis cultivation stands after the California Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal on Wednesday in Maral v. Live Oak, an appellate decision permitting cities and counties to prevent patients from growing their own medicine, despite the fact that it is allowed under state law. The decision means that a ban on all cultivation adopted by the City of Live Oak in 2011 will be precedent for other cities and counties to follow.

The Maral decision is a second blow to patients’ rights in California. Last year, the state supreme court held in Riverside v. Inland Empire Patients Health and Wellness Center that local governments could ban distribution of legal medicine. Maral and Riverside are a one-two punch for California patients and providers. By allowing local governments to prevent any cultivation or distribution of medical cannabis, the courts are, in effect, authorizing jurisdictions to opt out of crucial parts of Proposition 215.

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CA Supreme Court ruling puts the ball in our court



The California Supreme Court ruled on Monday that medical cannabis dispensaries are legal under state law, but cities and counties can still ban them. The decision in City of Riverside v. Inland Empire Patients Health and Wellness Center is disappointing, but it is not the end of the fight for safe and dignified access to medicine in approximately two hundred communities where patients' associations are banned. The Supreme Court pointed out that "nothing prevents future efforts by the Legislature, or by the People, to adopt a different approach." That means the ball is in your court now.

Ask your California lawmakers to protect safe access for every legal patient by adopting statewide regulations based on our "Principles of Sensible Medical Cannabis Regulation." Two measures before the state legislature seek to regulate medical cannabis activity – AB 473 by Assemblymember Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco) and SB 439 by Senate President Pro-Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco). Act now to be sure these two measures, which are still being finalized by lawmakers, reflect what patients and other medical cannabis stakeholders want to see.



Almost one hundred members of Americans for Safe Access (ASA) and our allies hit the halls of the State Capitol Building on Monday to take our pro-regulation message directly to our elected Representatives. The California Medical Cannabis Policy Summit and Lobby day was a success, but we need to stay at the table as the legislative session continues. You can ask your Assemblymember and Senator to adopt sensible regulations whether or not you were at the Capitol this week. Send a message right now.

ASA will be rolling out new programs this summer to help patients and advocates fight local bans with new legislation and voter initiatives. Your participation and support will be the key to success in Sacramento and in communities statewide. You can start helping by joining ASA or making an additional contribution right now. 

I want to say a special thank you to everyone who attended the summit and lobby day, and especially to our sponsors – California NORML, United Food and Commercial Workers Union, Bay Area Safe Alternatives, Greater Los Angeles Collectives Alliance, Emerald Growers Association, Coalition for Cannabis Policy Reform, Berkeley Patients Group, Crusaders for Patients Rights, Good Fellows Smoke Shop, and Desert Organic Solutions Collective.

Thank you for acting to support regulations and fighting with ASA for safe access for everyone.


San Diego prosecutor to try dispensary operator for third time

Third time’s a charm? Not in the case of Navy veteran and former San Diego dispensary operator Jovan Jackson.

San Diego Assistant District Attorney (ADA) Chris Lindberg decided this week to try Jackson for a third time in as many years. Jackson, who operated the San Diego dispensary Answerdam Alternative Care Collective (AACC), was raided by a multi-agency law enforcement task force in 2008 and again in 2009. Jackson was tried the first time on possession and distribution charges, but was acquitted by a jury in 2009.

Unsatisfied with that result, ADA Lindberg, likely at the behest of San Diego District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis, tried Jackson a second time on charges levied after the 2009 raid on AACC. The second trial was not considered “double jeopardy” by the court because the prosecution was based on a different raid. During Jackson’s second trial in 2010, Lindberg prevented him from using a medical marijuana defense and, as a result, was convicted this time on the same charges of possession and distribution.

Outraged by this official persecution of a law-abiding dispensary operator and the waste of taxpayer dollars, Americans for Safe Access (ASA) appealed Jackson’s conviction in late 2011. In a unanimous landmark decision by California’s Fourth District Court of Appeal, Jackson’s conviction was overturned in October 2012. The court also held that Jackson should have been entitled to a medical marijuana defense, rejecting arguments made by both Lindberg and the Attorney General that patients must take part in the cultivation used to supply dispensaries.

Although the Attorney General decided not to appeal the 2012 ruling overturning Jackson’s conviction, in an unusual move Lindberg appealed to the California Supreme Court. Clearly disappointed by the High Court’s decision earlier this year not to review the case, Lindberg is seeking to try Jackson again. This time, however, Jackson is ensured a defense at trial.

The new trial, which has been set for May 1st in San Diego County Superior Court, is clearly a waste of taxpayer dollars in a time of fiscal crisis, but is also a futile attempt to undermine patients’ rights to safely and legally obtain their medication from storefront dispensaries.

Since the landmark appellate ruling, San Diego Mayor Bob Filner has indicated his disinterest in prosecuting state-compliant dispensary operators in the city. Mayor Filner has also promised to help pass an ordinance that would establish local dispensary regulations, thereby making Jackson’s third trial that much more superfluous, yet still injurious for Jackson.

It seems doubtful to say the least that Jackson could now be convicted by a jury. It’s long past time for law enforcement in San Diego to abandon its hostile stance toward medical marijuana and allow California law to be implemented without further interference.

Medical Marijuana Patients Missing from California Supreme Court Oral Arguments

In a highly-publicized and widely-watched medical marijuana case, the California Supreme Court heard oral arguments yesterday on whether municipalities should be able to ban local medical marijuana distribution, an activity deemed legal under state law. For all of the controversy and strenuous arguments made on both sides of the issue, those who stand the most to lose -- medical marijuana patients themselves -- were completely ignored.

In the case City of Riverside v. Inland Empire Patients Health and Wellness Center, the abstract but quantifiable impact of dispensary bans is that tens of thousands of patients are left without safe and legal access to their medication, mainly as a result of hostile or reluctant local officials. Today, more than 50 localities in California have adopted ordinances regulating the lawful distribution of medical marijuana, while more than 200 of the state’s cities and counties have banned dispensaries outright. For the past 7 years, city councils and county boards of supervisors have passed bans with complete disregard to the impact on their most vulnerable residents.

From a practical standpoint, patients who live in cities where dispensary bans exist and who cannot grow it themselves or find someone to grow it for them are stuck with an unfortunate dilemma: how to obtain a medication that is legal under state law. Every time a dispensary ban is unreasonably and arguably illegally imposed, hundreds if not thousands of patients wake up the next morning not knowing where they’re going to get the medicine they rely on. These patients are commonly forced to either go without their medication, travel long distances to obtain it, or engage with the illicit market as one of the few alternatives to such distribution prohibitions.

The California Supreme Court ultimately focused on two issues: whether medical marijuana distribution is protected activity under the scope of California’s medical marijuana law, and, if so, whether local dispensary bans are preempted by state law.

Much time was spent dissecting the first issue as it relates to the statutory language of the law. Did the Medical Marijuana Program Act (MMPA) passed in 2003 sufficiently spell out the mechanism for lawful distribution in the state? Did the statutory language sufficiently protect such distribution from local bans? Or, did local bans frustrate the purpose of the law, which is to uniformly implement a functional medical marijuana program?

Little time, however, was spent reviewing existing case law that the High Court at one time or another had the chance to review. Plaintiffs’ counsel, J. David Nick, raised People v. Urziceanu and People v. Colvin, and would likely have raised People v. Jackson if the Justices hadn’t cut him off, to show that the legality of dispensaries was well established. Unfortunately, the City of Riverside’s false claim that no case law existed to substantiate the legality of storefront distribution went unchallenged.

Some Justices, Judge Goodwin Liu in particular, questioned whether the MMPA was anything more than limited immunity from criminal prosecution. If so, the Court could logically evade the decision of whether cities can ban distribution. The California Supreme Court ruled previously in Ross v. Ragingwire that no right to civil action existed for patients and the City of Riverside missed no opportunity to invoke that decision. However, neither party nor the court raised an important caveat to Ross. In Butte County v. Superior Court, a landmark appellate decision that was denied review by the High Court solidly affirmed the civil rights of patients under state law. The Butte County Court held that the Medical Marijuana Program Act passed in 2003 was not limited to criminal immunities; it also could be applied more broadly in the civil context under certain circumstances.

Regardless of how the Court rules in Riverside, patients will continue to demand uniform application of the law and a right to safe and legal access to their medicine. The patchwork system that currently exists in the state, with far more municipal bans than regulatory ordinances, has perverted the will of California voters and jeopardized the health and safety of countless patients.

The California Supreme Court has a chance to assist in the equitable implementation of California’s medical marijuana law. Sensible public health policy dictates that municipal governments should have the right to regulate safe and legal distribution of medical marijuana, but not ban that activity outright. The High Court knows what to do and should take decisive action, ensuring against any further harm resulting from the current haphazard and largely punitive policy on local medical marijuana distribution.

California Supreme Court Deems Legality of Storefront Medical Marijuana Dispensaries “Final”

"The matter is now final," according to the California Supreme Court.  On Wednesday, the California Supreme Court denied requests from the League of California Cities, the San Diego District Attorney's Office, the Sacramento District Attorney's Office, the Sonoma District Attorney's Office, the Los Angeles District Attorney's Office and the Los Angeles City Attorney to depublish or review the published decision in People v. Jackson.

After years of struggling over the issue, the Court of Appeal held that storefront dispensaries are legal under California law, so long as they operate on a not for profit basis and adhere to certain corporate forms.  This decision establishes that storefront dispensaries are unquestionably legal under California law and that localities cannot continue to rely on their now-discredited view that all sales of medical marijuana are illegal in order to support their ongoing attacks on medical marijuana dispensaries.

Another important impact of the appellate court ruling is providing medical marijuana providers with a clear defense to state criminal charges. Specifically, the ruling held that in mounting a defense at trial:
Jackson was only required to produce evidence which would create a reasonable doubt as to whether the defense provided by the [Medical Marijuana Program Act] had been established.

The court further held that:
[T]he collective or cooperative association required by the act need not include active participation by all members in the cultivation process but may be limited to financial support by way of marijuana purchases from the organization. Thus, contrary to the trial court's ruling, the large membership of Jackson's collective, very few of whom participated in the actual cultivation process, did not, as a matter of law, prevent Jackson from presenting an MMPA defense.

California Supreme Court picks February 5th for oral arguments to decide whether municipalities can ban local distribution of medical marijuana

The California Supreme Court scheduled oral arguments this week in a case that has received widespread attention inside and outside of the medical marijuana community. The appellate court ruling in City of Riverside v. Inland Empire Patients Health and Wellness Center is being reviewed by the High Court in order to address the issue of whether municipalities can use zoning regulations to ban outright the local distribution of medical marijuana.

Oral arguments in the Riverside case will be held in a special session of the California Supreme Court on Tuesday, February 5th at 10:15am at the University of San Francisco (USF) School of Law.

In addition to the Riverside case, a number of other appellate court rulings from southern California focusing on the same issues were granted review by the Court, including County of Los Angeles v. Alternative Medicinal Cannabis Collective, 420 Caregivers v. City of Los Angeles, City of Lake Forest v. Evergreen Holistic Collective, and People v. G3 Holistic.

Notably, two of these appellate rulings held that local officials may not ban distribution and must develop regulations instead. Specifically, the County of Los Angeles decision from July 2012 overturned a local ban on dispensaries, reversing the lower court’s preliminary injunction from the previous year. The appellate court in County of Los Angeles held that “medical marijuana collectives…are permitted by state law to perform a dispensary function,” and that “[Los Angeles] County’s total, per se nuisance ban against medical marijuana dispensaries directly contradicts the Legislature's intent.” The Court further concluded that, a “complete ban” on medical marijuana is “preempted” by state law and, therefore, void.

Yet, other appellate court decisions have sided with municipal governments in their cynical effort to push out any form of safe and legal access to medical marijuana.

Rest assured, however, that Americans for Safe Access will work with the lawyers in the Riverside case to obtain a ruling from the California Supreme Court favorable to patients across the state. Just as with its amicus ‘friend of the court’ brief filed last year in the Riverside case, ASA will continue to fight for safe access. “While municipalities may pass reasonable regulations over the location and operation of medical marijuana collectives, they cannot ban them absolutely,” read ASA’s amicus brief. “These bans thwart the Legislature’s stated objectives of ensuring access to marijuana for the seriously ill persons who need it in a uniform manner throughout the state.”

See you at USF next month!

Cutting through the legal quagmire, patients demand safe and legal access to medical marijuana



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last Friday, patient advocates Americans for Safe Access (ASA) filed an amicus ‘friend of the court’ brief in City of Riverside v. Inland Empire Patient’s Health and Wellness Center to convey the urgent need for safe and legal access to medical marijuana. In what is possibly the most important issue currently facing hundreds of thousands of patients in California, ASA urged the State Supreme Court to reject the notion that municipalities can ban local distribution of medical marijuana, thereby cutting off access. Specifically, ASA argued in its brief that:
While municipalities may pass reasonable regulations over the location and operation of medical marijuana collectives, they cannot ban them absolutely. These bans thwart the Legislature’s stated objectives of ensuring access to marijuana for the seriously ill persons who need it in a uniform manner throughout the state.

In addition to the Riverside case, the State Supreme Court is reviewing the Pack v. City of Long Beach decision, which involves issues of federal preemption. Adding even more appellate decisions to the mix, last week the Second District issued two conflicting rulings. One of the rulings in County of Los Angeles v. Alternative Medicinal Cannabis Collective held that dispensaries were legal under state law and that municipalities could not ban them.

At the time, ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford said in a prepared statement that:
The court of appeal could not have been clearer in expressing that medical marijuana dispensaries are legal under state law, and that municipalities have no right to ban them. This landmark decision should have a considerable impact on how the California Supreme Court rules in the various dispensary cases it’s currently reviewing.

There are a staggering 178 cities in California that have completely ignored the needs of patients in their community by adopting bans against medical marijuana dispensaries. However, there are more than 50 municipalities, which have adopted regulatory ordinances that have safely and legally accommodated for the needs of their patients, as well as other members of their communities. An increasing number of studies also show that regulating dispensaries will decrease crime and increase the quality of life in surrounding neighborhoods.

Patient advocates are not putting all their eggs in the California Supreme Court basket. There is still an effort afoot to pass legislation next year to regulate medical marijuana at the state level. The statewide ballot initiative process is yet another option available to patient advocates and one that will definitely be considered in the months ahead.

CA Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Cannabis Collectives

In a major victory for patients and medical cannabis cooperatives, today the California Supreme Court rejected calls from the California Attorney General and law enforcement to review the Appeals Court ruling in People v. Colvin (PDF). At issue in this case was Attorney General Kamala Harris’s interpretation of the Medical Marijuana Program Act to require an undefined percentage of the membership of a medical marijuana collective to actively participate in some way in the operation of the collective. The court’s ruling today means that medical cannabis collectives in California may operate like any other collective, such as REI or Costco, in which a member of the collective participates solely through purchasing products distributed by the collective.

At ASA, we were of course very concerned with the Attorney General’s argument that patients had to participate actively in the operations of a medicinal cannabis collective, because many patients are not physically able to do so (among other objections). Harris’s interpretation of the law was invented from whole cloth, and the Second Appellate district recognized it as such. That Court of Appeal in its ruling that was upheld today, stated that the Medical Marijuana Program Act imposes no such restriction on medical marijuana collectives.

The California Supreme Court’s rejection of efforts by the CA Attorney General and law enforcement to review the Colvin case effectively puts an end to this issue and makes clear that medical marijuana collectives should be treated the same as others under the law. This is a big victory for patients and our movement.

Joe Elford is the Chief Counsel for Americans for Safe Access.

CA Supreme Court Grants Review to Pack and Riverside, Local Lawmakers Should Take Note

The California Supreme Court has made a move that should improve safe access by granting review for two controversial medical marijuana cases decided by lower appellate courts in 2011. As a result of this move, both Pack v. City of Long Beach (link to ASA blog on Pack), and Riverside v. Inland Empire Patient's Health and Wellness Center, are effectively decertified until the court reaches its final decision, a process which some expect to go on for two years, as Ross v. RagingWire took two years to decide.

The decisions by the lower appellate court in both of these cases have been harmful for patient access to medicine, but the Pack fallout has been particular damaging. The Pack ruling in October set off a firestorm of cities and counties moving to ban dispensaries throughout the state, even beyond the Second District of the CA Court of Appeals where the case was decided. These panicked reactions by lawmakers have resulted in weakened availability to medicine for Californian patients. As is stands now, Pack and Riverside are now dead letters.

California Cityand County legislators should take note of the impact of this move by the state high court before moving forward with any further legislation as a result of lower court’s Pack ruling. A city or county presently considering a dispensary ban based upon Pack, such as the largest city in the state, ought to recognize that they would be undermining patients’ ability to obtain medicine they need, all in reaction to a case that no longer has legal authority. Regardless of the ultimate outcome of the Pack and Riverside decisions, making rash policy changes that are harmful to the health of Californians following the decertification of Pack seems like an unnecessary proposition at best.

CA Court of Appeals Pack decision: http://safeaccessnow.org/downloads/Pack_v_Long_Beach.pdf

CA Court of Appeals Riverside decision: http://www.courtinfo.ca.gov/opinions/documents/E052400.PDF

CA Supreme Court Denies Law Enforcement Request to Review Landmark Case

After years of wrangling in the Court of Appeal, medical marijuana patients, on August 18, 2010, obtained a published decision affirming that federal law does not preempt California law regarding medical marijuana collectives.  Dissatisfied with this outcome, numerous law enforcement organizations, including:  five former DEA Administrators, the Drug Free America Foundation, and the California State Sheriff’s Association, along with numerous cities and counties, filed requests for the California Supreme Court grant review and reach an opposite conclusion.  On Thursday, this came to and end, as six of the seven Justices of the California Supreme Court voted to decline review. This denial of review bodes well for medical marijuana patients, as there are now at least four published decisions affirming that federal law does not preempt California’s medical marijuana laws.  This has been an argument made by numerous localities to avoid abiding by California’s medical marijuana laws.  Although this latest decision does not officially put the matter to rest, it signals that the California Supreme Court does not seem to buy the federal preemption argument.  Chalk one up for the patients.