Medical Marijuana Club in San Francisco Reopens Under Protection of Proposition 215
The Cannabis Buyers' Club (CBC), renamed the Cannabis Cultivators Club, reopened in San Francisco on January 15 under the legal protection of Proposition 215, California's new medical marijuana law, following a judge's ruling. The CBC had been closed since it was raided on August 4, 1996 by state narcotics agents. Shortly after the raid, Judge William Cahill issued an order prohibiting the CBC from selling marijuana. For more information, see "State Agents Raid Cannabis Buyers' Club in San Francisco," NewsBriefs, September 1996.
On January 8, Superior Court Judge David Garcia modified that court order, saying the passage of Proposition 215 in November had changed the law and that the CBC could reopen for business. Judge Garcia's order also allows the CBC to grow marijuana for their patients. "This is the first time in the history of the United States that a judicial order has been issued allowing the cultivation and possession of marijuana," said J. David Nick, an attorney for the club.
In response to objections by John Gordnier, senior assistant attorney general, Judge Garcia said, "I don't think you or I are going to say that the people of California were totally ineffectual in trying to pass a medical marijuana law." Garcia said the ruling only applied to the Cannabis Cultivators Club and would have no legal force outside of San Francisco. Gordnier asked the judge to disallow the club from making a profit, and Garcia agreed. The judge also said the club must keep detailed records showing that it is providing marijuana for medical use only.
Judge Garcia rejected the state's argument that the CBC is not a primary care giver as required by Proposition 215. "The case appears to provide an excellent vehicle for the state appellate court to jump in and provide some guidelines as to what the limits of Proposition 215 are, especially the law's definition of 'primary care giver,'" said Steve Telliano, a spokesman for Attorney General Dan Lungren.
Prior to being shut down in August 1996, the 12,000-member club operated for years with the tacit acceptance of local law enforcement officials. On reopening day, former state Senator Milton Marks cut a ribbon in front of the club, and the club began to register new members. Prospective club members had to bring proper identification and a doctor's recommendation for the drug. Staff members confirmed the doctors' recommendations before issuing new members computer-generated membership cards with photos and a bar-code strip. Member patients can purchase different grades of marijuana from the club at prices from $5 to $65 per one-eighth-ounce bag. Pot is also available in cookies, truffles and vials of tincture that can be mixed with tea or coffee. Patients are allowed to "self-medicate" on site.
CBC founder Dennis Peron said Garcia's ruling "will boost the chances for the criminal case to be resolved" in his favor. Peron and five colleagues were indicted on October 12 by an Alameda County grand jury on charges stemming from the August 4 raid, including charges of possessing, cultivating, transporting and selling marijuana. The charges are pending. For background information, see "S.F. Cannabis Buyers Club Founder Arrested ... ," NewsBriefs, November 1996.
Articles providing the basis for this story include: Associated Press, "Medical Pot Club in S.F. to Reopen After Court Ruling," Los Angeles Times, January 11, 1997, p. A21; Glen Martin, "S.F. cannabis club reopens after Prop. 215, court order," San Francisco Chronicle, January 16, 1997, p. A17; Mary Curtius, "Club Offering Marijuana Reopens in SanFrancisco," Los Angeles Times (Washington Edition), January 16, 1997, p. A1; William Booth, "At This Club, the Third Floor Is High," Washington Post, January 21, 1997, p. A3; Hanna Rosin, "The Return of Pot," New Republic, February 17, 1997, p. 18.