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David Williams et al v. Butte County et al

February 8, 2012


(Super. Ct. No. 137329)

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Raye , P. J.

Williams v. Butte County



California Rules of Court, rule 8.1115(a), prohibits courts and parties from citing or relying on opinions not certified for publication or ordered published, except as specified by rule 8.1115(b). This opinion has not been certified for publication or ordered published for purposes of rule 8.1115.

Plaintiff David Williams is a qualified medical marijuana patient who uses medical marijuana upon the recommendation of a physician. Williams belonged to a collective of medical marijuana patients who funded, cultivated, and distributed the crop amongst themselves. The marijuana was grown at Williams's home.

In 2005 a Butte County Sheriff's deputy came to Williams's home without a warrant. Although Williams produced copies of medical marijuana recommendations for himself and the other members of the collective, the deputy ordered him to destroy all but 12 of the 41 medical marijuana plants. Williams complied.

Williams brought suit in his own name and on behalf of Does 1 through 4, alleging various constitutional violations by defendant Butte County (County). County demurred based on a failure to state a cause of action. The trial court overruled the demurrer, rejecting County's argument that Williams could assert his right to grow medical marijuana cooperatively only as a defense in criminal court. County brought a petition for a writ of mandate, which we denied in County of Butte v. Superior Court (2009) 175 Cal.App.4th 729 (County of Butte).

Williams filed a motion for attorney fees based on his success in the writ proceeding. The trial court granted the motion. Subsequently, Williams dismissed his complaint in the underlying action.

County appeals the trial court's award of attorney fees, arguing Williams was not a successful party because he did not achieve any of the relief he sought. In addition, County contends the trial court erred in denying its motion for attorney fees, since Williams did not file his lawsuit in good faith or with reasonable cause. We shall affirm the judgment.


The following facts are taken from County of Butte.

"The Compassionate Use Act--Proposition 215

"Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 (Act), created Health and Safety Code section 11362.5, which provides that statutes prohibiting possession and cultivation of marijuana 'shall not apply to a patient, or to a patient's primary caregiver, who possesses or cultivates marijuana for the personal medical purposes of the patient upon the written or oral recommendation or approval of a physician.' (Health & Saf. Code, § 11362.5, subd. (d); all further statutory references are to the Health & Saf. Code.) The Act also states, as one of its purposes: 'To ensure that patients and their primary caregivers who obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes upon the recommendation of a physician are not subject to criminal prosecution or sanction.' (§ 11362.5, subd. (b)(1)(B).)

"The Legislature subsequently passed the Medical Marijuana Program Act (MMPA) to clarify and implement the Act. (Stats. 2003, ch. 875, § 2.) The MMPA added section 11362.77, which specifies an individual may possess no more than eight ounces of dried marijuana and maintain no more than six mature or 12 immature marijuana plants per qualified patient. (§ 11362.77, subd. (a).)

"The MMPA also added section 11362.775, providing that qualified patients who associate within the state in order collectively or cooperatively to cultivate marijuana for medical purposes will not be subject to state criminal sanctions. Section 11362.775 exempts qualified persons 'from criminal sanctions for possession for sale, transportation or furnishing marijuana, maintaining a location for unlawfully selling, giving away, or using controlled substances, managing a location for the storage, distribution of any controlled substance for sale, and the laws declaring the use of property for these purposes a nuisance.' (People v. Urziceanu (2005) 132 Cal.App.4th 747, 785." (County of Butte, supra, 175 Cal.App.4th at pp. 732-733.)

Williams's Complaint

In his complaint, Williams alleged he was a resident of Butte County and a qualified medical marijuana patient who uses marijuana on his physician's recommendation. Does 1 through 4 are also qualified medical marijuana patients.

Williams and six other patients formed a collective. Each member agreed to contribute comparable amounts of money, property, and/or labor to the collective cultivation of medical marijuana, grown at Williams's home. Each member ...

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