Cal Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Case On Patient Cultivation Rights

UPDATE: This story was corrected on March 27 to reflect the news that the decision was not unanimous. According to the Court's website, Justices Kennard, Werdegar and Liu thought the petition should be granted, and the four other justices disagreed.

March 26, 2014: In a disappointing setback for Prop 215 patients' rights, the CA Supreme Court denied review of the Maral v Live Oak appellate decision, which upheld the right of local governments to completely ban personal use cultivation by medical marijuana patients.

In a lawsuit sponsored by Cal NORML, attorney Joe Elford had petitioned the Court to depublish the Live Oak decision, arguing that such bans violate Prop. 215 and SB 420. SB 420 sets a statewide cultivation guideline of six mature or 12 immature plants and specifically authorizes local governments to establish higher - but not lower - guidelines.

"We are deeply disappointed by the court's decision," says Cal NORML Director and Prop 215 co-author Dale Gieringer, "They have effectively undermined Prop. 215's stated purpose 'to ensure that seriously ill Californians have the right to obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes.'”

As usual for depublication petitions, the court issued no explanation for its decision, which effectively opens the legal door for further bans throughout the state. Other local governments, including Fresno county and city, have moved to ban personal use cultivation as well.

The court's decision does not preclude the possibility of a future challenge to local cultivation bans in another appellate district. However, plaintiffs face difficult odds in light of the Supreme Court's ruling. Medically needy patients who have been arrested and harmed due to local cultivation bans are invited to contact Cal NORML about possible legal challenges.

Live Oak, which does not allow dispensaries, was the first government in California to completely ban all patient cultivation. Its ordinance was challenged by a local patient, James Maral, who suffers severe medical problems that he had been treating with medicine grown at home. Mr. Maral filed suit to overturn the Live Oak ordinance, but lost his case in the Third District Appellate Court, whose decision stands as a legal precedent under California law.

Also see: California Supreme Court won't hear Live Oak pot appeal Appeal Democrat, March 27, 2014

KMUD's Cannabis Report interview with Cal NORML board member and attorney Bill Panzer (March 28, 2014