I’ve regularly commented on the dangers of California’s ad hoc approach to the establishment of medical marijuana laws and how marijuana supporters dangerously promote their reforms.
In a nutshell, the problem is this: marijuana supporters do not provide any nuance to their discussion of the effects of the laws they succeed at passing and well-meaning “ganjapreneurs” start medica-marijuana operations without noticing any of the many dangers present in the current legal environment. The same goes for medical marijuana patients who assume that they can have their medicine in perfect safety without accounting for the ignorance (and sometimes malice) of public officials opposed to marijuana.
Such was the case with Sean Patrick Mulcrevy who, despite having a doctor’s recommendation, possessed 0.16 grams of honey and 0.05 grams of dab.
In 1996, California voters adopted Prop. 215, an initiative which added the Compassionate Use Act (Health & Safety Code § 11362.5) creating an exception to California laws which otherwise controlled possession and cultivation of “marijuana.”
California has long defined “marijuana” to include “all all parts of the plant Cannabis sativa L., whether growing or not; the seeds of that plant; the resin extracted from any part of the plant; and every compound, manufacture, salt, derivative, mixture, or preparation of the plant, its seeds or resin.” (Cal. Health & Safety Code § 11018, emphasis added.)
One might think that this should have been reasonably clear, and it’s consistent with the federal definitions of such things (which are found in the Sentencing Guidelines, rather than in statutes).
The California Attorney General agreed, concluding that “concentrated cannabis or hashish is included within the meaning of the term “marijuana” as used in the Compassionate Use Act of 1996. There was even a form jury instruction promulgated by the Judicial Council of California (CALCRIM No. 2377) for use by attorneys and the courts.
Mr. Mulcrevy was nonetheless arrested for possession after a probation search by a sheriff’s deputy. At trial on the probation violation, the trial court decided to ignore the opinion of the California Attorney General and the Judicial Council, rejecting these authorities as “unsound” and ruling that the Compassionate Use Act “does not apply to concentrated cannabis” because the CUA itself does not define marijuana, refer to concentrated cannabis, or incorporate statutory definitions of either term.
The trial court found that Mulcrevy violated its probation.
In other words, the system failed Mulcrevy in numerous ways. The deputy sheriff who arrested him should have known the law. The District Attorney should have known the law. The trial court should have known the law. When defense counsel provided them with the law and the analysis of the statute adopted by their own respective branches of the government, these “law enforcers” should have yielded.
And yet, they didn’t. Perhaps it was because these officials are idiots. (Hey, it could happen.) Or maybe it was because they just didn’t care and thought it would be better to substitute their own preferences for the will of the voters. We will probably never know.
And that is the environment in which all medical marijuana patients and dispensary owners operate. One in which various bureaucrats arbitrarily fail to apply the law. Sure, this is less of a problem in the big cities, but it’s more of a problem in smaller rural counties.
And none of these dangers have been addressed by the Legislature or reformers.
Fortunately for Mr. Mulcrevy, the 3rd District Court of Appeal corrected (PDF) this sad state of affairs. But at what cost?
As of the time of this writing, unfortunately, the 3rd DCA’s opinion remains unpublished and can’t be relied on in other parts of the state so that bureaucrats and uninformed judges can continue to make the same mistakes.