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Name: People v. Urziceanu
Case #: C045276
Court: CA Court of Appeal
District 3 DCA
Opinion Date: 09/12/2005

Defendant appealed from conspiracy convictions arising from his operation of a marijuana collective. The court rejected the defendant’s argument that, under the Compassionate Use Act, he was entitled to present a defense that the law allowed him to form a marijuana collective in order to cultivate and possess marijuana for qualified patients and primary caregivers. The court found no error in the trial court’s ruling precluding defendant from raising the Compassionate Use Act defense to the charge that he had conspired to cultivate and possess marijuana. Defendant had not attempted to prove that he was a patient and that all of the marijuana raised by the collective was for him, nor did he attempt to prove that he was the primary caregiver for each of the patients who patronized the collective. Instead, he attempted to argue that the people who made up the collective were the primary caregivers for the patients and caregivers who patronized the collective, an argument which ignores the narrow language of the Compassionate Use Act. The court likewise rejected the argument that the Compassionate Use Act provided defendant with a constitutional right to cultivate, stockpile, or distribute marijuana. The court held, however, that defendant’s conviction for conspiracy to sell marijuana should be reversed, because the defendant was entitled to present a defense of mistake. Defendant’s good faith belief that he was not violating the law is relevant in the context of specific intent. If the jury were to find that defendant believed in good faith that the Compassionate Use Act rendered his actions legal, this finding would negate the required specific intent to violate the law required for a conspiracy conviction. On retrial defendant should also be able to argue to the jury that the law was vague, but this vagueness is only relevant to defendant’s lack of specific intent to violate the law. The court further held that the newly enacted Medical Marijuana Program Act would provide defendant with a potential defense to the charge of conspiracy to possess marijuana for sale, and that this act should be applied retroactively. Finally, the court could not affirm the trial court ruling that officers conducting a probation search substantially complied with the knock-notice rule, due to the trial judge’s statement that he was basing the ruling on the fact that the officers had knocked and announced their presence, not on a determination that the defense witnesses who testified that the officers entered within eight to ten seconds of knocking were not credible. The court ordered that, on remand, the trial court should make factual findings as to whether it found the defense witnesses or the prosecution witnesses more credible.