California Court Rules Cannabis Buyers' Clubs Not "Caregivers" Under 215 12/20/97

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The following article was re-printed with the permission of the NORML Foundation. You can find them on the web at

Court of Appeals Reinstates Injunction Against San Francisco Cultivators' Club Ruling Threatens Existence Of Clubs Throughout State

December 17, 1997, San Francisco, CA: Cannabis Buyers' Clubs in California do not qualify as "primary caregivers" and are not protected under the state's medical marijuana law, the state Court of Appeals, First Appellate District ruled on December 12. The ruling reverses an earlier decision by Superior Court Judge David Garcia stating that CBC's were legal as long as they engaged in the not-for- profit sale of marijuana for legitimate medical purposes.

The District Court ruling, which goes into effect in 30 days unless stayed by further appeals, reinstates an injunction barring the San Francisco Cultivators' Club -- the state's largest CBC -- from distributing medical marijuana. "The court has nullified the will of the voters as expressed in the success of Prop. 215," club founder Dennis Peron said. He vowed to appeal the decision to the Supreme Court. State Attorney General Dan Lungren -- who has consistently argued in favor of outlawing cannabis clubs -- praised the ruling and announced that law enforcement may move against other clubs if they do not voluntarily close within 30 days.

Presently, there are approximately 20 active clubs across the state. California NORML Coordinator Dale Gieringer said although the ruling was not unexpected, he believed it would be an injustice to shut down the state's chief suppliers of medical marijuana. "Legally, this decision doesn't surprise us," he said. "It was plain from the beginning that Prop. 215 doesn't legalize sales. "Still, it would be a serious mistake for the Attorney General to shut down the state's cannabis buyers' clubs. In addition to supplying thousands of patient's [with their medicine,] club[s] ... provide a peaceful and hospitable haven for patients, keep drug dealers off the street, keep marijuana away from kids, and generate business for the community."

Although some state counties have proposed distributing medical marijuana to certified patients from state-run facilities, no such plans are presently active. A legislative proposal introduced this year to establish a Medical Marijuana Research Center at a campus of the University of California was held over by the state Assembly. "Cannabis buyers' clubs remain the only viable source of medical marijuana in California short of home cultivation or purchasing marijuana on the street," NORML Executive Director R. Keith Stroup, Esq. said. "To close these clubs would force thousands of seriously ill patients to suffer needlessly and force many patients to enter the black market or go without the medicine they need to survive."

Peron said that he will keep the club's doors open as long as it is physically possible to do so. "I feel like we're fighting the second revolution here," he said. "I'm ready to go to jail. I'm not going to send AIDS patients and cancer patients back out to the parks." Peron and five others still face felony marijuana charges stemming from an August 4, 1996, raid by state law enforcement agents on the San Francisco club. For more information, please contact either R. Keith Stroup of NORML @ (202) 483-5500 or Dale Gieringer of California NORML @ (415) 563-5858.

But -- Peron, Hallinan Hope to Circumvent Ruling

Citing loopholes in Court of Appeals' injunction against the San Francisco Cannabis Cultivator's Club, San Francisco District Attorney Terrence Hallinan told the San Francisco Chronicle the Club might find a way to continue to provide marijuana to its 5,000 members. In order to meet the definition of a "caregiver," the court says Club owner Dennis Peron must show that he is providing marijuana for specific patients. Hallinan suggests, therefore, that they might work out a system whereby particular plants are designated for specific club members.

Peron says that there is "wiggle room" on the issue of marijuana sales, as well. "The ruling said we can't sell marijuana," he said, "but it also said that people who provide it to a patient can be remunerated for production costs." The San Francisco club, along with other California buyers' clubs, is slated for shutdown within 30 days of the ruling, according to California prosecutors.

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Issue #23, 12/20/97 California's Prison Population Expected to Increase Dramatically | California Court Rules Cannabis Buyers' Clubs Not Caregivers Under 215 | Report on Institute of Medicine's First Public Hearing on Medicinal Marijuana | Cannabis Decriminalization Conference in the UK | Health Canada Set to Approve Medical Marijuana on a Case-by-Case Basis | Media Alert from Families Against Mandatory Minimums | November Coalition Spearheads National Show of Protest | Editorial: The drug warriors claim they are "Protecting our children?" | How to Donate to DRCNet

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