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Feb-28-2012 23:34printcomments

Safe Access: LA's 2nd District Court of Appeals Affirms Legality of Storefront Dispensaries

"...imposing the Attorney General’s requirement would, it seems to us, contravene the intent of [state law] by limiting patients’ access to medical marijuana and leading to inconsistent applications of the law..." - court

Second District Court of Appeal rejects Attorney General’s argument that all collective members must participate in cultivation
Second District Court of Appeal rejects Attorney General’s argument that all collective members must participate in cultivation

(LOS ANGELES) - The California Court of Appeal issued a landmark published decision last week affirming the legality of storefront dispensaries and rejecting the argument that every member of a collective or cooperative must participate in the cultivation.

Didn’t hear about the ruling? Maybe because the decision came from the Second Appellate District in Los Angeles, the domain of District Attorney Steve Cooley and City Attorney Carmen Trutanich, famously intolerant to medical marijuana dispensaries. It would be an understatement to say that the ruling jabs a large thorn into both of their sides. You’ll certainly see no publicity from their corner.

The case People v. Colvin involves William Frank Colvin, the operator of Hollywood Holistic Inc., who was arrested while lawfully transporting a pound of medical marijuana from one collective he operates to another.

Even while acknowledging that Colvin was operating a legitimate dispensary, the trial court denied him a defense on the grounds that transportation of medical marijuana was illegal under state law. After being denied a defense, Colvin was convicted.

On appeal, California Attorney General Kamala Harris advanced the view that under state law all members of a collective must somehow participate in the cultivation process and “come together” in “some way” for this purpose. In characterizing Attorney General Harris’s argument, the Court said:

The Attorney General does not specify how many members must participate or in what way or ways they must do so, except to imply that Holistic, with its 5,000 members and 14 growers, is simply too big to allow any ‘meaningful’ participation in the cooperative process; hence, it cannot be a ‘cooperative’ or a ‘collective’ [in compliance with state law].

The Court then compared medical marijuana cooperatives with food cooperatives:

[The Attorney General’s interpretation of state law] would impose on medical marijuana cooperatives requirements not imposed on other cooperatives. A grocery cooperative, for example, may have members who grow and sell the food and run a store out of which the cooperative’s products are sold. But not everyone who pays a fee to become a member participates in the cooperative other than to shop at it.

However, the Court of Appeal unanimously rejected the stringent requirement that an “unspecified number of members to engage in unspecified ‘united action or participation’ to qualify for the protection of [state law].” Perhaps most importantly, the Court said that the “logical conclusion” of such requirements would likely “limit drastically the size of medical marijuana establishments.” Furthermore, the Court said that:

[T]he Attorney General’s vague qualifier provides little direction or guidance to, among others, qualified patients, primary caregivers, law enforcement, and trial courts. Rather, imposing the Attorney General’s requirement would, it seems to us, contravene the intent of [state law] by limiting patients’ access to medical marijuana and leading to inconsistent applications of the law.

It should be no surprise why Cooley, Trutanich and the other opponents of medical marijuana would want to downplay such a landmark decision. However, at a time when trial courts are denying a defense to medical marijuana dispensary operators, the Court’s decision is a welcome one that is long overdue.

Special thanks to Bill Holmes


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Malcolm Kyle February 29, 2012 4:31 am (Pacific time)

Prohibition comes with great human cost. If you support it you're either a black market profiteer, a corrupt politician, a terrorist, a sadomoralistic fake-conservative, or an authoritarian wing-nut-socialist. As a prohibitionist, you've helped create a black market with massive incentives to hook both adults and children alike, while making these dangerous substances freely available in schools and prisons. You've triggered the worst crime wave in history (ramping up extortion, kidnapping, carjacking and other crimes that directly prey on civilians), raised gang warfare to a level not seen since the days of alcohol bootlegging, and helped evolve local gangs into transnational enterprises with intricate power structures that reach into every corner of society, with significant social and military resources at their disposal. Your insistence that only criminals should sell drugs has put previously unknown, dangerous, contaminated concoctions on our streets. Your aberrant ignorance has diverting scarce law-enforcement resources away from protecting peaceful citizens from YOUR ever-escalating prohibition-engendered mega-violence. - These are the very same citizens that you falsely claim to represent. How can you even sleep at night, knowing that your actions are preventing the sick and dying from obtaining safe and effective medication? Knowing you are responsible for the horrific racial disparities which have bred generations of incarcerated and disenfranchised Afro Americans? Or knowing you're promoting a policy which kills our children, endangers our law enforcement and military personnel, counteracts our foreign policy, and reduces much of the developing world to anarchy? Mexico has become "Afghanistan with margaritas" - the situation in both of these countries is a direct result of your beloved policy of prohibition!

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Sean Flynn was a photojournalist in Vietnam, taken captive in 1970 in Cambodia and never seen again.



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