Two Appellate Court Decisions Affirm Legitimacy of Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

UPDATE May 17, 2012 - The California Supreme Court has granted a petition by the City of Lake Forest to review the Lake Forest ruling.

March 4, 2012 - The legal status of medical cannabis dispensaries has been bolstered by two appellate court rulings in the past week.

In the first, People v. Colvin, the Second Appellate District, Division Three rejected prosecutors' claim that all collective members must participate in cultivation. The court reversed the conviction of William Frank Colvin, who was convicted for transportation after being denied a medical marijuana defense under SB 420 (HSC 11362.775) because he was not engaged in the cultivation process. The court specifically re-affirmed the legitimacy of dispensaries in this situation.

In the second decision, Lake Forest v Evergreen Caregivers, the Fourth Appellate District, Division Three ruled that local governments may not prohibit medical marijuana dispensaries altogether, PROVIDED that they are at sites where medical marijuana is "collectively or cooperatively cultivated." The court found that SB 420 (HSC 11362.775) obliged local governments to accommodate collective/cooperative cultivation projects. The Lake Forest ruling seems to be inconsistent with Colvin, insofar as the latter authorized transportation from Humboldt County to LA, while the former limited transportation to "collective amounts at the collective site."

This is not the final word on the sticky question of what kind of collective/dispensary operations are legal. Both decisions could be taken up the state Supreme Court, which has already agreed to take up four other important appellate decisions on this subject. It will probably be a year before the court issues its decision.

- Dale Gieringer, Cal NORML

More in the upcoming CalNORML Newsletter. Subscribe today to get your copy!