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Name: People v. Hochanadel
Case #: D054743
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 4 DCA
Division: 1
Opinion Date: 08/18/2009

The Medical Marijuana Prevention Act (MMPA) did not unconstitutionally amend the Compassionate Use Act (CUA) when it authorized “cooperatives” and “collectives” to cultivate and distribute medical marijuana. Operating a storefront dispensary that qualifies as a cooperative or collective may be presented as a defense at trial. But the dispensary in question did not qualify as a “primary caregiver” under the CUA. The trial court granted a motion to quash a search warrant that was issued to search a marijuana dispensary because it found the police officer was not qualified to author the warrant since he lacked understanding of the medical marijuana laws; and because the dispensary was a legal primary caregiver, so there was no probable cause for the warrant. In this People’s appeal, it was argued that the MMPA unconstitutionally amended the CUA when it authorized the formation of collectives and cooperatives to distribute marijuana. The appellate court disagreed. The CUA itself directed the state to pass legislation to provide for the safe and affordable distribution of medical marijuana to qualified patients. The MMPA was designed to implement this directive, not amend the CUA. (See County of San Diego v. San Diego NORML (2008) 165 Cal.App.4th 798.) However, for a storefront dispensary, cooperative, or collective to have a valid defense, it must comply with other aspects of the CUA, one of which is that it must be a valid primary caregiver as defined in People v. Mentch (2008) 45 Cal.4th 274. Relying on Mentch and Attorney General guidelines, which while not binding are persuasive, the court concluded the dispensary here did not qualify. A storefront dispensary and its operators do not qualify as a primary caregiver just because marijuana patients have signed paperwork designating it as such. Further, this dispensary did not operate as a non-profit, and it purchased marijuana from outside vendors, which is illegal. So the search warrant should not have been quashed.