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People v. Solis

California Court of Appeals, Second District, Sixth Division

May 15, 2013

THE PEOPLE, Plaintiff and Respondent,
JUAN CARLOS SOLIS et al., Defendants and Appellants.

pub. order 6/13/13 (see end of opn.)

Superior Court County of Santa Barbara Nos. 1331260, 1333860, 1364838, 1365541 Frank J. Ochoa, Judge.

Law Office of Joseph D. Allen, Joseph D. Allen and Alan Karow for Defendant and Appellant Juan Carlos Solis.

Law Office of Alan Karow, Alan Karow; Law Office of Joseph D. Allen, Joseph D. Allen, for Defendant and Appellant Sinthia Alba Martinez.

Esparza Law Group and Luis Esparza for Defendant and Appellant Rudy Aragon Lopez.

Kamala D. Harris, Attorney General, Dane R. Gillette, Chief Assistant Attorney General, Lance E. Winters, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Michael R. Johnsen, Supervising Deputy Attorney General, William H. Shin, Deputy Attorney General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.


Juan Solis, Sinthia Martinez, and Rudy Lopez operated what purported to be a medical marijuana collective serving some 1, 700 members. In defending against various marijuana charges, they invoked the defense provided by the Medical Marijuana Program (MMP)[1] for qualified patients who associate to collectively or cooperatively cultivate medical marijuana. The defense does not apply, however, if the operation does not meet the definition of a "collective or cooperative" and marijuana has been sold for a profit. Here, all of the collective's excess income—purportedly about $80, 000 a year—was simply treated by Solis as his personal "salary" without any accountability or disclosure to the collective's membership. Moreover, the collective was not registered as a nonprofit and appellants admitted purchasing marijuana from individuals who were not members of the collective. Because there was no evidence to raise a reasonable doubt whether the collective operated for profit or was otherwise lawful, the MMP defense did not apply.

Solis was convicted following a bench trial on three counts of possessing marijuana for sale (§ 11359), and a misdemeanor count of selling or transporting marijuana (§ 11360, subd. (a)). The court further found that appellant committed one of the possession counts while released from custody on bail (Pen. Code, § 12022.1, subd. (b)). Martinez was found guilty on one count of possessing marijuana for sale. Lopez was convicted on one count each of possessing marijuana for sale and selling or transporting marijuana. Appellants were each granted three years probation and ordered to serve time in jail with credit for time served. They contend their convictions must be reversed because the evidence raised a reasonable doubt as to whether their activities were protected under the MMP. We affirm.


Pursuant to the parties' agreement, the case was tried on the record of the preliminary hearing and additional stipulated facts. On February 6, 2010, over 20 pounds of marijuana was found in Glen Mowrer III's vehicle during a traffic stop. Mowrer told the police he routinely sold marijuana to several local medical marijuana dispensaries, including The Healing Center (THC), which Solis and Martinez operated out of a storefront at 1437 San Andres Street in Santa Barbara.

On February 17, 2010, search warrants were executed at THC, Solis's residence at 1107 San Andres Street, and his adjoining residence at 701 West Carrillo Street. During the search of the residence at 1107 San Andres Street, officers found a marijuana growing operation with live plants, processing tools, and packing materials. Solis and Martinez were at the residence when the warrants were executed and were both arrested.

At THC, officers found a large quantity and variety of marijuana products along with sales receipts and patient records. Several customers who arrived during the search reported they became "members" of THC by filling out a form and that their only involvement in the collective consisted of purchasing marijuana. None of the members knew how THC operated or gave any input in that regard.

Solis and Martinez told the police they had been operating THC, which had about 1, 700 members, for the immediate past three years. Martinez often worked at THC, did the bookkeeping, and occasionally bought marijuana from vendors. She did not know how much money she or THC had made over the past year. Solis said he and Martinez made all the business decisions for THC and provided no services to the customers other than selling marijuana. Solis admitted that THC was not registered as a nonprofit. He also admitted receiving about $80, 000 in income from THC in the past year, which he spent on family expenses and entertainment. Every week he bought approximately one pound of marijuana and resold it to THC customers for double the price he paid. He did not have any information regarding the source of the marijuana he ...

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