California Supreme Court Ruling Limits Medical Marijuana Distribution

Smelly Money Leads To Major Legal Review Of California’s Medical Marijuana Distribution
In an important legal case decided today that cannabis reform advocates have been waiting on for nearly two years, the California Supreme Court ruled that criminal defendants are not entitled to a defense as Proposition 215 (Prop 215) caregivers if their primary role is only to supply marijuana to patients.

“We hold that a defendant whose care-giving consisted principally of supplying marijuana and instructing on its use, and who otherwise only sporadically took some patients to medical appointments, cannot qualify as a primary caregiver under the Act and was not entitled to an instruction on the primary caregiver affirmative defense. We further conclude that nothing in the Legislature’s subsequent 2003 Medical Marijuana Program (Health & Saf. Code, § 11362.7 et seq.) alters this conclusion or offers any additional defense on this record. ”
Prop 215 defines primary caregiver to be the “individual designated by the [patient]… who has consistently assumed responsibility for the housing, health, or safety of that person.” According to the Court, these words ” imply a caretaking relationship directed at the core survival needs of a seriously ill patient, not just one single pharmaceutical need. ”
The Court concluded, ” a defendant asserting primary caregiver status must prove at a minimum that he or she (1) consistently provided care-giving, (2) independent of any assistance in taking medical marijuana, (3) at or before the time he or she assumed responsibility for assisting with medical marijuana. ”
The Court’s ruling effectively limits the caregiver defense to relatives, personal friends and attendants, nurses, etc. In particular, it excludes its use by medical marijuana “buyers’ clubs,” retail dispensaries and delivery services.

The remaining legal defense for medical marijuana providers is to organize as patient cooperatives and collectives, which are legal under SB 420.
“The Mentch decision highlights the inadequacy of California’s current medical marijuana supply system,” California NORML coordinator Dale Gieringer told the Indy Bay News . “The law needs to allow for professional licensed growers, as with other medicinal herbs.”
Amazingly, this case found its way to California’s high court because bank tellers reported Mentch to law enforcement because his cash deposit smelled strongly like cannabis (Mentch was caught with approximately 200 cannabis plants that he believed he was lawfully tending, in compliance with Prop 215, for five medical patients who possessed a physician’s recommendation).
Full text of the People vs. Mentch is found here. Listen to NORML Legal Counsel and founder Keith Stroup on today’s AudioStash talk about the significance of the court ruling and likely implications on how patients can continue to lawfully access medical cannabis.

0 thoughts

  1. There is no reason that modern “street prices,” or even close to it needs to be applied to CA medical cannabis – in my opinion. This is different than if outright legalization were the CA law, which it is not. Prop215 passed voters without any specific for-profit allowances for businesses to pop up and make tons of money. In my opinion, it’s amazing how easy pot is to grow, when you need it, but can’t go buy it in a store (and wow, it’s amazing how much pot you get for your money it turns out when you do grow for yourself).

  2. uh, i have a question: how can the court expect a caregiver, no matter whom it might be, to know, IN ADVANCE, that they would be supplying medical marijuana? This seems to me to be an unconstitutional, and unwieldily weighted, requirement; which, if my understanding of Prop. 215 is correct, was not intended. The language of which: “Prop 215 defines primary caregiver to be the “individual designated by the [patient]… who has consistently assumed responsibility for the housing, health, or safety of that person.” When you take those kind of responsibilities, yes, legally, morally, for tax & estate purposes!, you are the primary caregiver. So, why does the court need to make such a big deal of something already stated in the law. And, too, the law needs to be amended to help protect the supplier’s of the medicine. Personally, and while I agree with PARTS of the interpretation, I have always thought that depending on such a “loose” relationship as caretaker. I don’t in anyway think that they are wrong! I’m just saying that they took their chances on the defense, and it didn’t completely pan out. Time to go back to the books, and I would raise the constitutional question of the “foreknowledge” concept.

  3. It is unfortunate that our governments abdicater their
    responsibility to allow the citezenery to pursue the
    constitutional right to LIFE LIBERTY and THE PURSUIT
    The fault lies within each of us for allowing these
    scoundrels to be re-elected with such frequency. It’s
    time to make them pay for their contunied oppression.
    Vote them out if they have not taken a public stand
    fo legalize marijuana. If they are not clear on the
    issue then vote them out. Target candidates who insist
    on keeping marijuana illegal. Throw them out of office
    and make sure only those candidates who openly support lelgalization are their replacements.
    Even our recent election had two major candidates that failed to address the issue. I did not vote for either
    of them. I voted for Ron Paul who has consistantly
    stated the drug war is a sham. It’s time to get more
    candidates who support his view.

  4. 2nd reply.
    The Good Samaritian Act should be investigated.
    Rendering aid to those is distress should apply
    to those who supply medical marijuana.

  5. While this is somewhat of a setback for SOME people, I predicted this outcome. I have mixed feelings: On the one hand many patients will be affected who will now have to replace the commercial growers with actual caretakers. On the other hand, a large number of people who have consistently profited from the suffering and vulnerability of patients will no longer be able to reap the huge profits we’ve seen. Despite claims that they have not made profit, we’ve seen the commercial gorwers with new houses and new cars bought with patients’ suffering.
    In another way, this also affirms what I have been saying all along, and also affirms NORML’s new focus. State legislative efforts are certainly to be cheered. These are some hard working people who have gotten these laws passed. But, not it becomes more clear that in order for there to be any real change in the way ganja consumers are treated, we must all focus as much energy and effort as possible in passing meaningful federal reform.
    Ron Paul and Barney Franks have two bills before congress. The deceriminalization bill would be our best bet to help the most patients as well as stop the persecution of recreational ganja consumers.
    NOW IS THE TIME for all activists to start focusing their resources on getting that bill, or at least the medical protection bill, passed and in front of President Obama.
    The states “have our number” and are becomming more organized and adept at stopping l our efforts. Those state laws are all based on the perpetuation of the federal Controlled Substances Act (read ’em, they all have similar language). By decriminalizing at the federal level, not only would that remove almost all federal interference it would change the very basis of all states’s laws. States that have no voter initiative will have a better chance of passing law reforms that have been stalled for decades because of the CSA. But, continuing to spin wheels on state level legislation is a waste of resources, at best, and a complete waste of time in many cases.
    George Soros funds MPP and Obama. Hey, George, how about funding some real change???

  6. For more analysis of the Mentch decision, join me and Prop 215 co-author Bill Panzer (an attorney in California on NORML’s Legal Committee) on today’s (Tue 11/25) Daily Audio Stash.
    Keith Stroup joined me on yesterday’s (Mon 11/24) Daily Audio Stash to discuss the ruling as well.

  7. What a crock. First, the pinko-crap notion that “profit” is somehow unethical and/or illegal. Now we have to form a “collective” where the herb comes “from each according to his ability” and is distributed “to each according to his need”. How fecking lovely. Lenin and Marx are laughing in their graves.

  8. All over the world, haters are mobilizing to stop what is an eventuallity. A respected British think tank has set 2020 as the year when it is legal. We need to be patient and do our best not to buy from seedy people.Ask the buying centers what they suggest.
    The Feds hate us being happy. Who would join the military, buy guns in an excessive manner, or abuse alcohol(just one drink is toxic)? I am an ex law enforcement officer,and have made arrests of cannibus.
    Don’t leave it out in plain sight(Living Room,Car interior,anywhere a police officer would arrive or be present at). PUT IT AWAY. THE WORST THING ABOUT POT IS THAT IS STILL ILLEGAL BY FEDERAL STANDARDS. WATCH “SUPER HIGH ME” DVD.

  9. The People of the State of Michigan enact: the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act.
    With the recent passage of Michigan’s LEGISLATION, the relative state department must Promulgate Rules by which to function effectively. While there is now hope where there was none, these rules will either assist or be a hindrance to the patient.
    While this Law allows the patient or a “primary caregiver” to grow and provide the Marijuana for the patient, this dictates the patient or caregiver have the necessary skills, equipment, space, finances and time to dedicate to this task full time.
    Under Michigan Law, a designated caregiver can assist up to 5 patients. This would serve to pool the resources together more efficiently, providing one space, shared equipment cost and presumably a designated “primary caregiver” who is a professional grower.
    Today in California, of which the Michigan legislation was designed has had a set back handed down by their State Supreme Court which may affect the Promulgation of our Rules moving forward.
    California Supreme Court Ruling Limits Medical Marijuana Distribution
    November 24th, 2008
    In an important legal case decided today that cannabis reform advocates have been waiting on for nearly two years, the California Supreme Court ruled that criminal defendants are not entitled to a defense as Proposition 215 (Prop 215) caregivers if their primary role is only to supply marijuana to patients.
    “The Mentch decision highlights the inadequacy of California’s current medical marijuana supply system,” California NORML coordinator Dale Gieringer told the Indy Bay News . “The law needs to allow for professional licensed growers, as with other medicinal herbs.”
    Full text of the People vs. Mentch is found here
    The problem with this decision as well as the system set up to provide a “primary caregiver” status is that now the California Supreme Court is mandating these caregivers be relatives, personal friends and attendants, nurses. There are two problems with this finding, first those designated are not qualified to grow Marijuana and the second issue is that of the allowance for a “primary caregiver” to assist up to 5 patients. How many of your relatives and personal friends know 5 people who are legally allowed by state law to use marijuana for medical purposes ? Now expand that criteria throughout the entire state and apply it to the individual families of patients.
    Wanted: Full Time professional licensed growers
    While I am confident that I shall be approved under the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, as it is currently being developed I am afraid it will be of no use to me.
    My individual circumstance is such that I live alone, in a one bedroom apartment on a fixed income which is under the level of poverty. Therefore I am unable to afford the cost of the equipment needed to grow marijuana indoors. I am unable to afford the cost of the energy needed to run a lighting system 24/7 for 90 days straight.
    I have one friend who has served as a primary caregiver for me when I needed assistance yet, he knows absolutely nothing about growing marijuana. Plus, he barely has time due to his working two jobs just to support himself.
    As this law stands today, passed by the people of Michigan, while I qualify for coverage under the law I am unable to take advantage of this program due to the stringent requirements related to growing the plants.
    The Michigan Medical Marihuana Act rules have not been written as yet.
    I wish to ask everyone to assist me by writing The Bureau of Health Professions (BHP) within the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH) and lend your voice on this issue with my concerns in mind.
    I believe the best way forward, under the conditions spelled out in this legislation is for patients to organize under cooperatives and collectives with Full Time professional licensed growers.
    My preference would be to grow my marijuana in the soil, under the sun. That option is not allowed under this law because it calls for the marijuana to be grown in a locked, enclosed room.
    Thank you for your time and consideration on this matter.

  10. This comment may be a bit off-topic yet, I hope it will be approved for inclusion in this Blog comment area.
    Presidential pardons ~ a wise application of this absolute power ?
    I wish to request of the President to grant a blanket pardon to every citizen convicted under Federal Law of possession of Marijuana under 2.5 ounces. This would not alter or change existing law yet, it would be a good will gesture as recognition of the damage this level of conviction wields against our society.
    Will you help me by writing or calling the President, requesting this blanket pardon for all convicted of under 2.5 ounces of Marijuana ?
    It’s time for a CHANGE.
    If this request could be delivered in enough magnitude from the people, at this time. I believe President Bush could see it as a bonus for his legacy going forward. Especially if we contrast this request with His contemplating a blanket pardon covering crimes which may have been committed by any government employee since Sept 11, 2001 during the commission of the War on Terror.

  11. is it any wonder that marijuana remains illegal? check out the rick simpson story RUN FROM THE CURE. It can be seen on youtube or at our medical system is all about making money evan with the knowledge that they are costing lives. i believe that the high profits of the pharmecutical industry is an issue nto be addressed. why do so many die when a cure is avvailable? i am not so naieve as to believe that it will cure everything, however real medicine is a gift from God and comes from plant sources in most cases. one of those sources is marijuana.

  12. It is so funny that these people know what meds work for me. I feel like a lab animal and know I am. I finally found what works for me, no more drug reactions or allergies and then wham, they want to take it away again. I don’t try to take away codine from others though it can kill me, but because someone else doesn’t like it for themselves, I have to suffer. And I mean screaming, praying to God to take me and figuring out a way to end it all that won’t leave something behind, cuz I can’t do that to someone (and I always have that to fall back on). It’s okay to put my family, friends and complete strangers through watching another human being take pain that you can’t stand just watching, let alone live with (I have store clerks and strangers ask me all the time if they need to call and ambelance and this has been going on over 7yrs), as long as those people don’t take drugs that YOU don’t like, no matter how good it is for the other person. And I still don’t try to take away all the meds others can take, even though I am allergic to most narcotics and UNDERSTAND that we are all different as well as alike. And you wonder why I react the way I do about you taking my meds away. And I don’t share what I have with others. I follow the law.
    And when you have a place that are dispensing are doing dumb things, you take care of that place, you don’t close all of ’em. They just found another pharmasist that was messing with drugs and selling them, did they close all the pharmacies in the town and stop all of them from functioning, no, just the single person that was doing something wrong. This ruling should apply to ALL meds! You find one bad cop, do you put the whole department in jail? Hello, common sense. And the proof of how it works and the fact that it does not cause lung cancer ect…and cocaine is used in medicine. What do you think part of the “green godess” is made of.
    Each of us has a little different makeup and just like other things, some things are good for some and not for others. I don’t try to push peanuts or something made with it on someone who is allergic to it. Well, with drugs, that is what they are doing to me. Please let me take what works and as long as I don’t shove my meds in your face and I do it leagally and with common sense, let me have the relief I need from mind/body numbing pain, my lack of ability to eat (what you want me to take 5 more pills vs smoking a joint now and then, that does not make sense)and the fact that I can now think and couldn’t when they had me on all the other drugs.
    Sorry, I do go on. After what I have been through (and I know that what I’ve been through is nothing compared to some)I feel soooooo strongly about this. May God have mercy on the souls of those that want to inflict that kind of stuff on others.

  13. I concur with the post about reform on the Federal level. If each interested person wrote a polite letter to his or her Congressperson and two Senators, that would be about thirty minutes of work on the personal level and yield about 90 Million letters on the Federal level. If even one out of ten took the time to actually write the letter, that’s 9,000,000 letters. Who’s willing to be the one out of ten?

  14. and yet all pharmacists do is supply drugs on an m.d.’s orders…and i’d argue what this man was doing was not substantially different from what a pharmacist does.

  15. the fact is that a lot of greed has been allowed to run rampant in california. the only way you could begin to justify the prices charged by the dispensaries is if no legitimately-indigent person were turned away for inability to pay. The remainder of a dispensary’s fees should be on an income-based sliding scale. Because it is unreasonable to single out cannabiculturalists as being undeserving of living well by doing good it is legitimate for those who are funding the cultivation of medical cannabis to have the deciding vote on what kind(s) will be grown and first pick of the resulting crop.

  16. Yep the court ruled correctly on the law at least. In doing so highlighted the flaw in the medical track having weed half legal leaves everyone open to government abuse.
    Also by backing cannabis as medicine we have ceded the argument that cannabis is a drug. The reason You don’t see people from Philip Morris or Anheuser Bush claiming their products are drugs is that they know their products would soon be illegal if they did.
    Here’s a challenge name a single legal recreational drug.

  17. Prop 215 is still huge for people in cali. it sucks that this is what’s happening, but i think maybe the current system was just way too liberal for some people. that and it happened so fast, no one really knew what was going to happen. eventually restrictions will loosen up again, and i feel confident saying that maybe the next generation will be freely growing their own smoke. but for now, take what you can get. California still has it pretty damn good compared to much of the rest of the country.

  18. For clarification’ sake, those whose money subsidizes indigent patients having their needs met can, through market demand, determine what strains will be grown and what their pricing will be.
    Co-ops and collectives hiring full-time professional growers to work for them makes sense in the context of the ruling.
    Is a master grower worth as much as a master plumber, or a skilled attorney? What is fair pay for someone who’s spent decades mastering their craft? I’ve been a grower and activist since 1971, and spent years as an involuntary guest of the federal government because of it. What is my life experience worth?
    If you want to use cannabis as a social intoxicant work to repeal prohibition, don’t hide behind the mmj movement.
    It would be a true social catastrophe if greed-heads in California’s dispensary business manage to discredit the mmj movement for those of us who have legitimate medical need.

  19. You know, it’s a funny thing,
    every one of the bastards
    that are out for legalizing marijuana is Jewish.
    What the Christ is the matter with the Jews, Bob?

    – Richard Milhouse Nixon

    Nixon lied to schedule Ganja #1
    “Marijuana does not lead to physical dependency,
    although some evidence indicates that the heavy,
    long-term users may develop a
    psychological dependence on the drug”

    – The Shafer Commission of 1970

    “You’re enough of a pro to know that for you to come out with something that would run counter to what the Congress feels
    and what the country feels, and what we’re planning to do,
    would make your commission just look bad as hell.”

    -Richard Milhouse Nixon to Raymond P. Shafer

    Court Opens Door for Persecuting Med Pot Suppliers
    Court Cliarifies Medical Marijuana Caregiver Defense

    Caregivers Should Provide More Than Just Marijuana
    California Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Directory
    Yahooka Goods and Services
    Head Shop Supply
    “World’s Largest Head Shop Directory”
    Bongs * Pipes * Rolling Papers * Scales * Vaporizers * Hookahs * Bubble Bags * Kif & Stash Boxes * Lighters & Ashtrays * Joint Holders & Blunts * Grinders & Rolling machines * Books, DVDs & Magazines * Indoor – Marijuana Seeds * Outdoor – Marijuana Seeds * Feminized – Marijuana Seed * Sativa – Marijuana Seeds * Indica – Marijuana Seeds * Medical Cannabis Seeds * Marijuana Seed Specials

    D.M.V “simply disregards” Prop 215
    Prison Industrial Complex Attacks Prop. 5
    Getting Rich Off Prohibition
    “We have spent over a trillion dollars trying to eradicate the world’s most beneficial plant off the face of the earth. Imagine what a better world this would be if that money had been spent on treatment, education and studying the medical benefits of marijuana.”
    — Steve Hager – High Times Editor (1988 – 2003)

    Signs of Sickness and
    Authoritarians Wrecking Crew
    Drug Cop Lies Sent over 150 to Jail 10.9.8
    86872,721 marijuana arrests in 2007 Inhaling or Not
    Jerry Brown Losing Control?
    “Relatively few adverse clinical effects from the chronic use of marijuana have been documented in humans. However, the criminalization of marijuana use may itself be a health hazard, since it may expose the users to violence and criminal activity.”
    – The Kaiser Permanente study
    “Marijuana Use and Mortality”
    April 1997 American Journal of Public Health

    Exporting DEAmocracy (Pete Guither DWR)
    This is part of our global contribution. The drug war has become the preferred foreign policy approach toward controlling much of the world. We export our drug war, our tactics, and, most of all, our DEA.
    (Now with offices in Belize, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Mexico, Canada, Panama, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Honduras, Paraguay, Colombia, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Venezuela, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, St. Lucia, Aruba, Netherlands Antilles, Suriname, Jamaica, The Bahamas, Turks & Caicos Islands, Haiti, Guyana, Trinidad & Tobago, Suriname, Dominican Republic, Cambodia, Thailand, Mongolia, Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, French Polynesia, New Caldeonia, New Zealand, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, Wallis & Futuna, Western Samoa, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Malaysia, Kiribati, Nauru, Philippines, Burma, South Korea, Brunei, East Timor, Indonesia, Singapore, Japan, Laos, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Greece, The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Romania, Bahrain, Chad, Dijibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kuwait, Libya, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Yemen, Oman, Pakistan, United Arab Emirates, Afghanistan, Russia, Bangladesh, India, Maldives, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Cyprus, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Syria, Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Greenland, Iceland, Latvia, Lithuania, Norway, Sweden, Czech Republic, Germany, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, The Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Togo, Western Sahara, Channel Islands, Ireland, Isle of Man, Northern Ireland, United Kingdom, Azores, Balearic Islands, Canary Islands, Cape Verde, Gibraltar, Portugal, Principality of Andorra, Spain, Spanish Enclaves (Ceuta & Melilla), Algeria, France, Monaco, Morocco, Tunisia, Angola, Botswana, Burundi, Central African Republic, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, Rwanda, Seychelles, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Italy, Malta, Montenegro, San Marino, Serbia, Slovenia, Netherlands, Poland, Austria, Belarus, Hungary, Moldova, Slovak Republic, Ukraine.

    Groups Endorsing RxGanja
    Marijuana: the law vs. 12 million people
    Life magazine Oct 31, 1969. 25-35

  20. You know what? Regardless of what small wins and losses occur in the judiciary, we will (or our children, or their children) will see the day that the United States errs on the side of common sense and marijuana will be legalized in the United States. Education Education Education!
    -David Carlson

  21. Hi,
    I am a 29 years old girl, in love wth life, so I have many hobbies: going out with my girlfriend,practice some sports (ping pong), go our in the evening to a discoteque, so all the things that chicks like me do all the time. I also have a great love for [url=]cannabis[/url] . It’ a recent love but very deep.I like to stay home and burn it a lot. I hope that one day we will smoke all together. What do you think about it?
    smack smack,

  22. So, let me get this straight. It was Chief Justice Roberts who issued the ruling. Roberts is a Bush appointee. Bush famously said in an interview in 2000 when he ran for President that he would appoint Judges who would “leave it up to the states,” when it came to legalizing marijuana.
    Shouldn’t Bush be getting the credit here for following through on his promise? A, sort of, last minute hurrah! to freedom lovers nationwide.
    Let’s enjoy it while we can. Certainly Obama’s AG Eric Holder doesn’t hold out any promise of being a friend of liberty.
    — Eric Dondero

  23. Love how it says “People vs Mentch”.
    Is that the same “people” that voted for 215, or some other people?

  24. Pingback: medicinal herbs
  25. So in simple terms what’s this mean for delivery services. Operating by county ordinance and sells permit BOE

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