Landmark Medical Marijuana Dispensary Ruling Prevails, Denied Review by California Supreme Court
Colvin affirms that not all collective members required to help cultivate medication
By Kris Hermes, Americans for Safe Access
In a landmark victory for medical marijuana patients, the California State Supreme Court denied review May 23, 2012 of an important dispensary case out of Los Angeles. Rejecting calls from State Attorney General Kamala Harris and law enforcement to review the Court of Appeal ruling in People v Colvin, the High Court upheld certain protections for medical marijuana patients and providers. The AG had argued that some undefined percentage of patients were legally required to participate in the operation of the medical marijuana dispensaries in order to obtain medication from them.
The ruling in Colvin held that the AG’s claim that member-patients must engage in unspecified “united action or participation” to qualify for protection under the state’s medical marijuana law would likely “limit drastically the size of medical marijuana establishments” and provide “little direction or guidance to, among others, qualified patients, primary caregivers, law enforcement, and trial courts.” Furthermore, the Court held that the AG’s requirement would “contravene the intent of [state law] by limiting patients’ access to medical marijuana.”
The Court held that “collectives and cooperatives may cultivate and transport marijuana in aggregate amounts tied to its membership numbers.” In addition, the decision affirmed that possession of extracted or concentrated forms of medical marijuana was legal under state law.
“That should put to rest this unfounded notion that [California] patients must ‘till the soil’ or somehow participate in the production of the medicine they purchase at a dispensary,” said Joe Elford, Chief Counsel with Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the country’s leading medical marijuana advocacy organization.
“This landmark case also affirms the right of patients to purchase extracted or concentrated forms of medical marijuana and the right to transport medication from an off-site cultivate site.”
A number of cannabis dispensary cases were granted review by the state Supreme Court earlier this year, including Pack v. City of Long Beach, Riverside v. Inland Empire Patients’ Health and Wellness Center, and City of Lake Forest v. Evergreen Holistic Collective. The Pack case addresses issues of federal preemption which have already come before the High Court, whereas the Riverside and Lake Forest cases address the issue of whether localities can permanently ban dispensaries.
“The Colvin decision has far-reaching, positive implications for medical marijuana patients and providers,” said Elford. ASA is currently appealing the conviction of Jovan Jackson, a San Diego dispensary operator tried in 2010 and denied a medical defense. “The Colvin decision is bad news for the Attorney General, who was relying on the same argument in the Jackson case.” Other trial court cases will invariably be affected by the Supreme Court’s decision not to review the Colvin case.