Appeals Court Overturns Marijuana Collective Conviction

The California marijuana laws are quite specific about giving patients the right to use pot for medical reasons, the laws however fall short in defining how a patient is to obtain the marijuana so collectives were formed to provide a resource for cannabis to those in need.  Long Beach has many collectives and the police try to shut them down when they can.  In this case the courts abused their power in preventing one defendant the right to use the statutory defense.  Defendant operated a nonprofit medical marijuana collective. After police found his inventory of medical marijuana, he was charged with a sale of marijuana (Health & Safety. Code, § 11360) and possession of marijuana.  At defendant’s first criminal trial, he presented a defense under the MMPA and the jury hung on both counts. At his retrial, the trial court precluded defendant from presenting his MMPA defense and he was convicted of possessing marijuana for sale. On appeal, defendant argued that he was entitled to present a defense under the MMPA.  These issues are presented by many long beach criminal defense attorneys.

The appeals court overturned the conviction. The MMPA provides a defense to section 11359 and section 11360 charges when a defendant shows that members of a medical marijuana collective are qualified patients who collectively associate to cultivate marijuana without making a profit. The defendant was entitled to present this defense because there was evidence that he was a qualified patient, he set up his medical marijuana collective as a nonprofit corporation, he did not make a profit on marijuana sold to qualified patients, and he ran the collective in compliance with the Attorney General’s medical marijuana guidelines. The appellate court also concluded that a member of a collective or cooperative may purchase medical marijuana from the collective or cooperative so long as the sale is not for profit. The court rejected the prosecution’s argument that any monetary contribution could not be contemporaneous with an exchange of marijuana. The trial court’s failure to permit the defense was prejudicial under Watson given that the jury was unable to reach a verdict in defendant’s first trial where the MMPA defense was presented. CCAP.


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