California Supreme Court to Hear Oral Argument in Pivotal Medical Marijuana Case Tuesday

Press Release October 5, 2008
Media Contact

Tamar Todd at (510) 229-5213 or Tommy McDonald at

On Tuesday, October 7, the California State Supreme Court will hear oral argument in People v. Roger William Mentch, a case that will likely serve to define the meaning and scope of the term “caregiver” under California’s medical marijuana laws.

The Supreme Court’s ruling could help clarify what assistance a person can give to a patient who uses medical cannabis in order to qualify as the patient’s caregiver, and obtain state law protections from arrest and prosecution for cultivating and distributing marijuana and related paraphernalia.

The Drug Policy Alliance filed an amicus curiae brief on behalf of leading doctors, professors, and researchers in support of Mentch. The brief informs the court that medical marijuana’s efficacy for the treatment of particular symptoms is closely related to the genetic strains of marijuana and routes of administration used by patients; and that many seriously ill patients depend upon knowledgeable caregivers to advise them about the appropriate strains of marijuana and the optimal routes of administration for their particular medical conditions. And in many cases, patients rely on caregivers to grow or obtain appropriate medical-grade marijuana from them.

“Experienced caregivers like Mr. Mentch serve as a crucial link between the recommendations of physicians and patients’ practical ability to use medical cannabis safely and effectively for the treatment of their conditions. We strongly hope the court will consider this special role,” said Daniel Abrahamson, director of Legal Affairs of the Drug Policy Alliance.

Roger Mentch is a lawful medical marijuana patient as well as a caregiver for several, other medical marijuana patients. Until his arrest in this case, Mentch served as a stable source of medical grade marijuana and essential health-related information for qualified patients. The jury at Mentch’s trial was denied the opportunity to consider Mentch’s role as a primary caregiver as a defense to the charges against him. The Court of Appeal for the Sixth District agreed that Mentch’s jury was wrongly denied this important information and that held that Mentch’s conviction should be overturned. The Attorney General, however, has chosen to appeal to the California Supreme Court.

Caregivers play a vital therapeutic role not only in cultivating medicinal marijuana but also in counseling patients who use physician-recommended marijuana on the safest and most effective uses of their medicine. Many seriously ill medical marijuana patients in California do not know how to grow, obtain, or use medical marijuana. Many are too sick to cultivate or purchase marijuana for themselves. Depriving caregivers of protection under California’s medical marijuana law would likely harm the health and well-being of medical marijuana patients by deterring knowledgeable and skilled caregivers from providing patients with appropriate types and amounts of medical-grade marijuana, and advice on how best to use the medicine. Seriously ill patients will be forced to turn to a legally questionable and possibly dangerous street market to obtain medical marijuana.

A ruling is expected within 90 days of oral argument.

A young woman holds a sign that says "End the Drug War."

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