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California Supreme Court Refuses Cannabis Club Case; Authorities Expected to Close Marijuana Clubs


February 1998

On February 25, the California Supreme Court left intact a lower-court ruling that Proposition 215, the state's medical marijuana law, does not allow "cannabis clubs" to sell the drug (Bob Egelko, "Decision barring pot club stands," Orange County Register, February 26, 1998: "Marijuana Clubs," USA Today, February 26, 1998, p. 3A).

The state Supreme Court unanimously denied review of a December 12, 1997 decision by the 1st District Court of Appeal that said the state's medical marijuana law did not allow marijuana sales and did not allow organizations to furnish marijuana as a "primary caregiver" (People v. Peron, Calif CtApp, 1stDist, No. A077630, 62 CrL 1267, (12/12/97)). Presiding Justice J. Clinton Peterson said the only way a patient can obtain marijuana legally is to grow it or obtain it from a primary caregiver who has grown it. The appellate ruling is now binding on trial courts statewide (see "California Medical Marijuana Clubs Illegal, Says Appeals Court; Feds File Civil Suit Against Six Clubs; Legal Defense Fund Organized," NewsBriefs, January 1998).

Proposition 215 was passed by two-thirds of California voters in November 1996. The Cannabis Buyers' Club (CBC), founded by Dennis Peron, author of Proposition 215, was raided by Attorney General Dan Lungren's agents three months before passage of the medical marijuana initiative. The CBC was ordered shut down, but was reopened in January 1997 by Superior Court Judge David Garcia, who said Proposition 215 allowed a nonprofit organization to sell marijuana to patients who had named the club as their "primary caregiver." However, the appeals court ruled that a primary caregiver - defined by the initiative as an individual, designated by the patient, "who has consistently assumed responsibility for the housing, health, or safety of that person" cannot be a commercial enterprise.

John Gordnier, a senior assistant attorney general, said he expects the closure of all cannabis clubs in California as a result of the ruling. "Voters did not intend to allow commercial enterprises to sell narcotics, like Mr. Peron's doing," said Gordnier. On February 26, Judge Garcia ordered the San Francisco Cannabis Cultivator's Co-op (CCC; formerly the CBC) to stop selling, giving away or storing marijuana (Maria LaGanga and Mary Curtius, "San Francisco Judge Orders Co-Op to Stop Selling Pot," Los Angeles Times, February 27, 1998, p. A3; Harriet Chiang, "Lungren Claims Ruling Closes S.F. Pot Club," San Francisco Chronicle, February 27, 1998, p. A24).

Peron said the CCC is in compliance with the ruling because it is no longer selling marijuana but is simply being reimbursed for cultivation costs. Peron said his club had changed its operations because of a statement in the appeals court ruling that a caregiver, while barred from selling marijuana, could be reimbursed for the cost of cultivation. "We're being reimbursed for the marijuana we cultivate legally as caregivers for these people who have letter from their doctors," he said. "It may be against the law to sell marijuana but it's morally wrong to let someone die, and we are saving lives here," Peron said. However, if trial courts disagree and order the club to close, "we're going to stay here until the tanks come," Peron said.

Attorney General Daniel E. Lungren - 1300 I Street, Sacramento, CA 95814, Tel: (916) 445-9555, Fax: (916) 324-5205, Attorney General's Office Public Inquiry Unit - E-mail: <>, Web: <>.

A coalition of supporters have organized a legal defense fund for medical marijuana patients, caregivers, and dispensaries. To make donations, contact California NORML: Medical Marijuana Patients' and Caregivers' Fund, 2215-R Market St., #278, San Francisco, CA 94114. Checks should be made payable to NORML Foundation: MMPCF. Contact Dale Gieringer - Tel: (415) 563-5858, E-mail: <>.