California Supreme Court refuses to review County of Butte v. Superior Court

California Supreme Court has let stand a landmark appellate court ruling that protects the right of medical marijuana patients and their primary caregivers to collectively cultivate. The ruling by California’s Third Appellate District Court also affirmed a patient’s ability to take civil action when their right to collectively cultivate is violated by law enforcement. The Butte County case involved a private 7-patient medical marijuana collective in Paradise, California.

The ruling was originally tied to a lawsuit filed in May 2006 by Americans for Safe Access (ASA) on behalf of 56-year-old David Williams and six other collective members after Butte County Sheriffs conducted a warrantless search of his home in 2005. Deputies forced Williams to uproot more than two-dozen plants by threatening arrest and prosecution. Contrary to state law, Williams was told by the Sheriff that his collectively cultivated medical marijuana was illegal.

After court Joe Elford, ASA Chief Counsel commented “By refusing to review this case, the California Supreme Court sends a strong message that local law enforcement must uphold the medical marijuana laws of the state and not competing federal laws.” Joe was the attorney that litigated the case on behalf of Williams. The appellate court ruling from July 2009 concluded that, “[T]he deputy was acting under color of California law, not federal law. Accordingly, the propriety of his conduct is measured by California law.”

In its ruling, the appellate court asserted that the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 is not simply an affirmative defense to criminal sanctions: “[W]e see an opportunity for an individual to request the same constitutional guarantee of due process available to all individuals, no matter what their status, under the state Constitution. The fact that this case involves medical marijuana and a qualified medical marijuana patient does not change these fundamental constitutional rights or an individual’s right to assert them.”

Further information and documents:

CA Supreme Court disposition (Case # S175219):
Ruling by California’s Third Appellate District Court:
Information on Butte Case:


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