Supreme Court of California Justia
Citation 45 Cal. 4th 274, 195 P.3d 1061, 85 Cal. Rptr. 3d 480

People v. Mentch

Filed 11/24/08

IN THE SUPREME COURT OF CALIFORNIA

THE PEOPLE,
Plaintiff and Respondent,
S148204
v.
) Ct.App.
6
H028783
ROGER WILLIAM MENTCH,
Santa Cruz County
Defendant and Appellant. )
Super.
Ct.
No.
07429

The Compassionate Use Act of 1996 (Act) (Health & Saf. Code, § 11362.5,
added by voter initiative, Prop. 215, Gen. Elec. (Nov. 5, 1996)) provides partial
immunity for the possession and cultivation of marijuana to two groups of people:
qualified medical marijuana patients and their primary caregivers. We consider
here who may qualify as a primary caregiver. We hold that a defendant whose
caregiving consisted principally of supplying marijuana and instructing on its use,
and who otherwise only sporadically took some patients to medical appointments,
cannot qualify as a primary caregiver under the Act and was not entitled to an
instruction on the primary caregiver affirmative defense. We further conclude that
nothing in the Legislature’s subsequent 2003 Medical Marijuana Program (Health
& Saf. Code, § 11362.7 et seq.) alters this conclusion or offers any additional
defense on this record. Accordingly, we reverse the Court of Appeal.


FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL BACKGROUND
In 2003, Roger Mentch was arrested and charged with the cultivation of
marijuana (Health & Saf. Code, § 11358)1 and its possession for sale (§ 11359).2
Prosecution Evidence
Heidi Roth, a teller at Monterey Bay Bank, testified that she became
familiar with Mentch over the period of February to April 2003. Mentch came to
the bank on several occasions and made large deposits of cash in small bills, each
deposit totaling over $2,000. Roth noticed that some of the money Mentch
deposited smelled so strongly of marijuana that the smell filled the bank, and the
bank had to remove the money from circulation. The total amount Mentch
deposited with the bank over a two-month period was $10,750. On April 15,
2003, Roth filed a suspicious activity report with the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s
Office, relating the questionable nature of Mentch’s deposits.
After further investigation, the sheriff’s office obtained a warrant to search
Mentch’s house for marijuana. On June 6, 2003, Mark Yanez, a narcotics
investigator, and four deputies went to Mentch’s house to serve the warrant.
When Mentch opened the door, Yanez told him they had a warrant to search his
house for marijuana. Mentch told Yanez that he had a medical recommendation
for marijuana. A search of Mentch’s person turned up $253 in cash and a small

1
All further unlabeled statutory references are to the Health and Safety
Code.
2
Mentch was also charged with manufacturing and possessing concentrated
cannabis (also known as hash oil) (§§ 11357, subd. (a), 11379.6, subd. (a)),
possessing psilocybin mushrooms (§ 11377, subd. (a)), and firearm enhancements
for the marijuana and hash oil counts (Pen. Code, § 12022, subd. (a)(1)), but these
additional counts have no bearing on the issues in this appeal, and we do not
address them further.
2


vial of hash oil, or concentrated cannabis. Yanez advised Mentch of his rights and
interviewed him in a police vehicle parked outside Mentch’s residence.
Mentch told Yanez he had a medical marijuana recommendation for colitis,
dysphoria, and depression, and that he smoked about four marijuana cigarettes,
totaling approximately one-sixteenth of an ounce, per day for medicinal purposes.
When Yanez asked Mentch if he sold marijuana, Mentch responded that he sold it
to five medical marijuana users.
A search of Mentch’s residence revealed several elaborate marijuana
growing setups. In various rooms of the house, the deputies found 82 marijuana
plants in the flowering or budding stage, 57 “clone” marijuana plants,
48 marijuana plants in the growing or vegetative stage, and three “mother” plants,
which Yanez opined were likely the female plants from which clippings were
taken to make the clone plants. Considering the evidence seized from Mentch’s
bank and residence, as well as his statement to Yanez, Yanez opined that while
Mentch may have personally consumed some of the marijuana he grew, his
operation was primarily a for-profit commercial venture.
Defense Evidence
Leland Besson testified that he had known Mentch for two years. In
June 2003, Besson was on disability and had a medical marijuana recommendation
for a bad back, neck, and joints. At the time, he was smoking approximately two
to three grams of marijuana a day. For about one year before Mentch was
arrested, Besson purchased his marijuana exclusively from Mentch, who knew
about Besson’s medical marijuana recommendation. Mentch supplied medical
marijuana through his business, the Hemporium. Besson gave Mentch $150 to
$200 in cash every month for one and one-half ounces of marijuana, the amount
Besson usually consumed in a month.
3
Laura Eldridge testified she had known Mentch for about three years. In
June 2003, she was working as a caretaker for Besson, cooking and cleaning for
him, driving him to the grocery store, and driving him to medical appointments
and to pick up his medications. Eldridge also drove Besson to Mentch’s house to
get him his marijuana. The only time Besson saw Mentch was when Eldridge
took him to Mentch’s house to get marijuana.
At the time, Eldridge herself had a medical marijuana recommendation for
migraine headaches and posttraumatic stress disorder. She was smoking about
five or six marijuana cigarettes a day and consuming about one ounce of
marijuana a month. Eldridge obtained marijuana exclusively from Mentch for
approximately one and one-half years before his arrest. Mentch provided the
marijuana through his medical marijuana business, the Hemporium. Eldridge
obtained the marijuana from Mentch every month, paying him $200 to $250 in
cash for one ounce and $25 in cash for one-eighth of an ounce if she needed more.
Eldridge was at Mentch’s house getting her daughter ready for school on
the morning of Mentch’s arrest. At the time, she and Mentch were not living
together but were seeing each other romantically, and Eldridge had stayed over at
Mentch’s house the night before the search warrant was served.
Mentch took the stand in his own defense. In 2002, he obtained a medical
marijuana recommendation and began growing marijuana. He learned how to
grow marijuana from reading books, searching the Internet, and talking to people.
He kept marijuana plants in all three stages of growth so that he was in a constant
cycle of marijuana production, which produced a yield of four harvests a year.
Mentch’s medical marijuana recommendation was still current on the day the
police searched his home. At that time, he smoked four to six marijuana cigarettes
a day (approximately one-sixteenth of an ounce) and consumed between one and
one-half to two ounces of marijuana a month.
4
Mentch opened the Hemporium, a caregiving and consultancy business, in
March 2003. The purpose of the Hemporium was to give people safe access to
medical marijuana. Mentch regularly provided marijuana to five other individuals,
including Besson, Eldridge, and a man named Mike Manstock. Sometimes he did
not charge them. All five individuals had valid medical marijuana
recommendations. Mentch did not provide marijuana to anyone who did not have
a medical marijuana recommendation. Occasionally, he took any extra marijuana
he had to two different cannabis clubs, The Third Floor and another unnamed
place. Although a majority of the marijuana plants in Mentch’s home belonged to
him, some belonged to Manstock. In addition, Mentch let Besson and Eldridge
grow one or two plants.
Mentch provided marijuana to Besson about once every month and to
Eldridge about once or twice every month. On average, they each gave him $150
to $200 for an ounce and a half of marijuana a month. Mentch considered his
marijuana “high-grade” and provided it to Besson and Eldridge for less than street
value. He used the money they paid him to pay for “nutrients, utilities, part of the
rent.” Mentch did not profit from his sales of marijuana, and sometimes he did not
even recover his costs of growing it. Mentch counseled his patients/customers
about the best strains of marijuana to grow for their ailments and the cleanest way
to use the marijuana. He took a “couple of them” to medical appointments on a
“sporadic” basis.
Although Mentch asked all five patients to come to court and testify on his
behalf, only Besson and Eldridge showed up. He did not subpoena the others
because one of them was out of state, another did not want to be involved because
his father was an attorney, and the third did not want to testify.
5
The Primary Caregiver Defense
Before trial, the prosecutor filed a motion in limine to exclude any
references by counsel during voir dire, testimony, or closing argument to Mentch’s
being a “primary caregiver” for Eldridge or Besson.3 The prosecutor asserted that
Eldridge and Besson could testify to any care Mentch had provided them, but
argued that the ultimate determination whether Mentch was a primary caregiver
rested with the jury. The trial court granted the motion.
After Eldridge and Besson testified, the court concluded the evidence was
insufficient to show that Mentch had provided primary caregiver services. Mentch
argued in a brief to the court that a person could qualify as a patient’s primary
caregiver whenever he or she consistently assumed responsibility for a patient’s
health by providing medical marijuana upon a doctor’s recommendation or
approval. The trial court rejected the argument.
During the subsequent discussion of jury instructions after the close of
evidence, Mentch requested the standard jury instruction for affirmative defenses
under the Act (CALJIC No. 12.24.1) on the theory that he was both a qualified
patient entitled to cultivate marijuana for himself and a primary caregiver entitled
to cultivate marijuana and possess it for sale to others. The trial court agreed to
give the instruction insofar as it articulated a qualified patient defense but,
consistent with its prior rulings, omitted the optional portion of the instruction
relating to the primary caregiver defense.4

3
The Act extends immunity from state prosecution for cultivation or
possession for sale to both qualified patients and their designated “primary
caregiver[s].” (§ 11362.5, subd. (d).)
4
At the time of trial, CALJIC No. 12.24.1 provided: “The [possession] [or]
[cultivation] [or] [transportation] of marijuana is not unlawful when the acts of
[defendant] [a primary caregiver] are authorized by law for compassionate use.

(footnote continued on next page)
6


The Jury’s Verdict and Subsequent Proceedings
So instructed, the jury convicted Mentch of both cultivation and possession
for sale. (§§ 11358, 11359.) The trial court suspended imposition of sentence and
imposed three years’ probation.
The Court of Appeal reversed Mentch’s convictions. It concluded:
“Where, as here, [Mentch] presented evidence that he not only grew medical
marijuana for several qualified patients, but also counseled them on the best

(footnote continued from previous page)
The [possession] [or] [cultivation] [or] [transportation] of marijuana is lawful
(1) where its medical use is deemed appropriate and has been recommended or
approved, orally or in writing, by a physician; (2) the physician has determined
that the person’s health would benefit from the use of marijuana in the treatment
of cancer, anorexia, AIDS, chronic pain, spasticity, glaucoma, arthritis, migraine,
or any other illness for which marijuana provides relief; [and] (3) the marijuana
[possessed] [cultivated] [transported] was for the personal medical use of [the
patient] [_______] [.] [; and (4) the quantity of marijuana [[possessed] [or]
[cultivated], and the form in which it was possessed were reasonably related to the
[patient’s] [_______] then current medical needs [.]] [transported, and the method,
timing and distance of the transportation were reasonably related to the [patient’s]
[_______] then current medical needs.] [¶] [A ‘primary caregiver’ is an
individual designated by
[the person exempted] [ (name) ] who has consistently
assumed responsibility for the housing, health, or safety of that person.
]
[¶] [‘Recommendation’ and ‘approval’ have different meanings. To ‘recommend’
something is to present it as worthy of acceptance or trial. To ‘approve’
something is to express a favorable opinion of it. The word ‘recommendation,’ as
used in this instruction, suggests the physician has raised the issue of marijuana
use and presented it to the patient as a treatment that would benefit the patient’s
health by providing relief from an illness. The word ‘approval,’ on the other,
suggests the patient has raised the issue of marijuana use, and the physician has
expressed a favorable opinion of marijuana use as a treatment for the patient.]
[¶] To establish the defense of compassionate use, the burden is upon the
defendant to raise a reasonable doubt as to guilt of the unlawful [possession] [or]
[cultivation] [or] [transportation] of marijuana.” (CALJIC No. 12.24.1 (2004 rev.)
(7th ed. 2003), italics added.) The italicized portions, governing the primary
caregiver defense, were in dispute, and the trial court omitted them from its
instructions.
7


varieties to grow and use for their ailments and accompanied them to medical
appointments, albeit on a sporadic basis, there was enough evidence to present to
the jury.” Because there was sufficient evidence to support an instruction on the
primary caregiver defense, the trial court erred by redacting all references to it in
CALJIC No. 12.24.1. (See People v. Michaels (2002) 28 Cal.4th 486, 529
[defendant has a right to have the trial court give a jury instruction on any
affirmative defense for which the record contains substantial evidence].)
We granted review to address the meaning of “primary caregiver” under the
Act.
DISCUSSION
I. The Primary Caregiver Defense
A. The Meaning of “Primary Caregiver”
We interpret voter initiatives using the same principles that govern
construction of legislative enactments. (Professional Engineers in California
Government v. Kempton (2007) 40 Cal.4th 1016, 1037.) Thus, we begin with the
text as the first and best indicator of intent. (Ibid.; Elsner v. Uveges (2005) 34
Cal.4th 915, 927.) If the text is ambiguous and supports multiple interpretations,
we may then turn to extrinsic sources such as ballot summaries and arguments for
insight into the voters’ intent. (Professional Engineers, at p. 1037; Legislature v.
Eu (1991) 54 Cal.3d 492, 504; Legislature v. Deukmejian (1983) 34 Cal.3d 658,
673, fn. 14.)
Section 11362.5, subdivision (d) provides: “Section 11357, relating to the
possession of marijuana, and Section 11358, relating to the 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.” In turn,
section 11362.5, subdivision (e) defines “primary caregiver” as “the individual
8
designated by the person exempted under this section who has consistently
assumed responsibility for the housing, health, or safety of that person.”
This statutory definition has two parts: (1) a primary caregiver must have
been designated as such by the medicinal marijuana patient; and (2) he or she must
be a person “who has consistently assumed responsibility for the housing, health,
or safety of” the patient. It is clear from the structure of subdivision (e) of section
11362.5 that this latter part of the definition has additional restrictive power, or
else the subdivision would have ended with the phrase “by the person exempted
under this section,” thereby allowing every patient to designate one person without
limitation. Thus, to qualify for exemption under this subdivision, a person must
satisfy both halves — the “designee” clause and the “responsibility” clause. (See
People v. Mower (2002) 28 Cal.4th 457, 475 [“For a person to be a qualified
primary caregiver, he or she must be ‘designated’ as such by a qualified patient,
and must have ‘consistently assumed responsibility’ for the qualified patient’s
‘housing, health, or safety’ ” (italics added)].) Designation is necessary, but not
sufficient. (People v. Urziceanu (2005) 132 Cal.App.4th 747, 773; People ex rel.
Lungren v. Peron (1997) 59 Cal.App.4th 1383, 1397.)
Three aspects of the structure of the responsibility clause are noteworthy.
From these aspects, as we shall explain, we conclude a defendant asserting
primary caregiver status must prove at a minimum that he or she (1) consistently
provided caregiving, (2) independent of any assistance in taking medical
marijuana, (3) at or before the time he or she assumed responsibility for assisting
with medical marijuana.
First, the text requires that the primary caregiver have “consistently”
assumed responsibility for the patient’s care. “Consistently” suggests an ongoing
relationship marked by regular and repeated actions over time. In People ex rel.
Lungren v. Peron, supra, 59 Cal.App.4th 1383, for example, the many customers
9
of a marijuana club, the Cannabis Buyers’ Club, executed pro forma designations
of the club as their primary caregiver. The Court of Appeal correctly rejected the
assertion that the buyers’ club could qualify as a primary caregiver in these
circumstances: “A person purchasing marijuana for medicinal purposes cannot
simply designate seriatim, and on an ad hoc basis, drug dealers on street corners
and sales centers such as the Cannabis Buyers’ Club as the patient’s ‘primary
caregiver.’ The primary caregiver the patient designates must be one ‘who has
consistently assumed responsibility for the housing, health, or safety of [the
patient].’ ” (Id. at p. 1396.) One must consistently — “with persistent uniformity”
(3 Oxford English Dict. (2d ed. 1989) p. 773) or “in a persistent or even manner”
(Webster’s 3d New Internat. Dict. (2002) p. 484) — have assumed responsibility
for a patient’s housing, health, or safety, or some combination of the three.
Second, the definition of a primary caregiver is written using a past
participle — “has consistently assumed.” (§ 11362.5, subd. (e).) This reinforces
the inference arising from the use of the word “consistently” that primary
caregiver status requires an existing, established relationship. In some situations,
the formation of a bona fide caregiving relationship and the onset of assistance in
taking medical marijuana may be contemporaneous, as with a cancer patient
entering chemotherapy who has a recommendation for medical marijuana use and
has a live-in or home-visit nurse to assist with all aspects of his or her health care,
including marijuana consumption. (See § 11362.7, subd. (d)(1) [primary caregiver
may include employees of hospice or home health agency].) Even in this scenario,
however, the caregiving relationship will arise at or before the onset of assistance
in the administration of marijuana. What is not permitted is for an individual to
establish an after-the-fact caregiving relationship in an effort to thereby immunize
from prosecution previous cultivation or possession for sale. (Cf. People v. Rigo
10
(1999) 69 Cal.App.4th 409, 412-415 [doctor may not give postarrest
recommendation to bless prior use].)
Third, from these two aspects of the text, as well as logic, we draw a further
inference: a primary caregiver must establish he or she satisfies the responsibility
clause based on evidence independent of the administration of medical marijuana.
Under the Act, a primary caregiver relationship is a necessary antecedent, a
predicate for being permitted under state law to possess or cultivate medical
marijuana. The possession or cultivation of marijuana for medical purposes
cannot serve as the basis for making lawful the possession or cultivation of
marijuana for medical purposes; to conclude otherwise would rest the primary
caregiver defense on an entirely circular footing.
We thus agree with the Court of Appeal in People v. Frazier (2005) 128
Cal.App.4th 807, 823, which rejected the argument that “a ‘primary caregiver’ is a
person who ‘consistently grows and supplies physician approved marijuana for a
medical marijuana patient to serve the health needs of that patient.’ ” The Frazier
court concluded that, while if one were already qualified as a primary caregiver
one could consistently grow and supply medical marijuana to a patient, the
consistent growth and supply of medical marijuana would not by itself place one
in the class of primary caregivers. (Ibid.; see also People v. Windus (2008) 165
Cal.App.4th 634, 644 [“Case law is clear that one who merely supplies a patient
with marijuana has no defense under the [Act]”].)5

5
Mentch directs us to the Attorney General’s Compassionate Use Act
guidelines concerning medical marijuana (see § 11362.81, subd. (d)) as supporting
a contrary definition of “primary caregiver,” but in fact the guidelines are wholly
consistent with case law and the statutory text and afford Mentch no support. The
guidelines note: “Although a ‘primary caregiver who consistently grows and
supplies . . . medicinal marijuana for a section 11362.5 patient is serving a health

(footnote continued on next page)
11


The trial court accurately assessed the law when, in denying Mentch’s
request for a primary caregiver instruction, it explained: “I’m satisfied that simply
providing marijuana, in and of itself to these folks does not — you don’t bootstrap
yourself to becoming the primary caregiver because you’re providing [marijuana]”
and “you have to be a caregiver before you can provide the marijuana.” (Italics
added.) Later, in denying Mentch’s motion for a judgment of acquittal (Pen.
Code, § 1118.1), the trial court reiterated the point: “There has to be something
more to be a caregiver than simply providing marijuana. Otherwise, there would
be no reason to have the definition of a caregiver, because anybody who would be
providing marijuana and related services would qualify as a caregiver[,] therefore
giving them a defense to the very activity that’s otherwise illegal, and I don’t think
that makes any sense in terms of statutory construction, nor do I think it was
intended by the people or the Legislature.”
Mentch himself highlights the dog-chasing-its-tail absurdity of allowing the
administration of medical marijuana to patients to form the basis for authorizing
the administration of medical marijuana to patients in his attempts to distinguish
this case from People ex rel. Lungren v. Peron, supra, 59 Cal.App.4th 1383, and
People v. Urziceanu, supra, 132 Cal.App.4th 747. Peron and Urziceanu, he
argues, involved only casual or occasional provision of medical marijuana; here,
in contrast, he “consistently” provided medical marijuana, “consistently” allowed

(footnote continued from previous page)
need of the patient,’ someone who merely maintains a source of marijuana does
not automatically become the party ‘who has consistently assumed responsibility
for the housing, health, or safety’ of that purchaser.” (Cal. Atty. Gen., Guidelines
for the Security and Non-diversion of Marijuana Grown for Medical Use (Aug.
2008) pt. II.B., p. 4.) They do not suggest provision of medical marijuana is alone
sufficient to qualify one as a primary caregiver, but recognize instead that the
provision of marijuana may be one part of caregiving for an ailing patient.
12


his patients to cultivate medical marijuana at his house, and was his five patients’
“exclusive source” for medical marijuana. The essence of this argument is that the
occasional provision of marijuana to someone is illegal, but the frequent provision
of marijuana to that same person may be lawful. The vice in the approach of the
cooperatives at issue in Peron and Urziceanu therefore evidently was not that they
provided marijuana to their customers; it was that they did not do it enough.
Nothing in the text or in the supporting ballot arguments suggests this is
what the voters intended. The words the statute uses — housing, health, safety —
imply a caretaking relationship directed at the core survival needs of a seriously ill
patient, not just one single pharmaceutical need. The ballot arguments in support
suggest a patient is generally personally responsible for noncommercially
supplying his or her own marijuana: “Proposition 215 allows patients to cultivate
their own marijuana simply because federal laws prevent the sale of marijuana,
and a state initiative cannot overrule those laws.” (Ballot Pamp., Gen. Elec.
(Nov. 5, 1996) argument in favor of Prop. 215, p. 60.) But as the focus is on the
“seriously and terminally ill” (ibid.), logically the Act must offer some alternative
for those unable to act in their own behalf; accordingly, the Act allows “ ‘primary
caregiver[s]’ the same authority to act on behalf of those too ill or bedridden to do
so” (People ex rel. Lungren v. Peron, supra, 59 Cal.App.4th at p. 1394). To
exercise that authority, however, one must be a “primary” — principal, lead,
central — “caregiver” — one responsible for rendering assistance in the provision
of daily life necessities — for a qualifying seriously or terminally ill patient.6

6
The Act is a narrow measure with narrow ends. As we acknowledged only
months ago, “ ‘the proponents’ ballot arguments reveal a delicate tightrope walk
designed to induce voter approval, which we would upset were we to stretch the
proposition’s limited immunity to cover that which its language does not.’ ” (Ross
v. Ragingwire
(2008) 42 Cal.4th 920, 930, quoting People v. Galambos (2002)

(footnote continued on next page)
13


We note in passing that some other states in adopting their own medical
marijuana compassionate use acts have adopted substantially different and
manifestly broader language in defining their primary caregiver exceptions. In
New Mexico, for example, a primary caregiver is “a resident of New Mexico who
is at least eighteen years of age and who has been designated by the patient’s
practitioner as being necessary to take responsibility for managing the well-being
of a qualified patient with respect to the medical use of cannabis.” (N.M. Stat.
§ 26-2B-3, par. F; see also Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 18, § 4472, subd. (6) [registered
caregiver must be 21, must have no drug convictions, and must have “agreed to
undertake responsibility for managing the well-being of a registered patient with
respect to the use of marijuana for symptom relief”].) Had the drafters of the Act
intended the broad understanding of “primary caregiver” that Mentch urges, they
might well have been expected to select similar language. They did not.7

(footnote continued from previous page)
104 Cal.App.4th 1147, 1152.) The Act’s drafters took pains to note that “neither
relaxation much less evisceration of the state’s marijuana laws was envisioned.”
(People v. Trippet (1997) 56 Cal.App.4th 1532, 1546; see also People v.
Urziceanu
, supra, 132 Cal.App.4th at pp. 772-773 [the Act “is a narrowly drafted
statute,” not an attempt to “decriminalize marijuana on a wholesale basis”].) We
must interpret the text with those constraints in mind.
7
More generally, we note that in the 12 states to have adopted
compassionate use acts, all such states’ acts include a primary caregiver exception
or its equivalent, and virtually all include some mechanism for limiting primary
caregiver status so the exception does not swallow the rule. Most rely on either
mandatory state registries (Alaska Stat. § 17.37.010, subds. (a), (q) [Alaska];
Mont. Code Ann. § 50-46-201 [Montana]; N.M. Stat. § 26-2B-4, par. D [New
Mexico]) or confine each caregiver to a set number of patients (Wn. Rev. Code
§ 69.51A.010 (1)(d) [Washington]) or both (Haw. Rev. Stat. § 329-123, subd. (c)
[Hawaii]; R.I. Gen. Laws §§ 21-28.6-3, subd. (6), 21-28.6-4, subd. (c) [Rhode
Island]; Vt. Stat. Ann. tit. 18, § 4474, subds. (a), (c) [Vermont]).

A minority (Colorado, Nevada, and Oregon) have instead adopted
California’s approach of limiting the caregiver exception by using a higher

(footnote continued on next page)
14


We have no doubt our interpretation of the statute will pose no obstacle for
those bona fide primary caregivers whose ministrations to their patients the Act
was actually intended to shield from prosecution. The spouse or domestic partner
caring for his or her ailing companion, the child caring for his or her ailing parent,
the hospice nurse caring for his or her ailing patient — each can point to the many
ways in which they, medical marijuana aside, attend to and assume responsibility
for the core survival needs of their dependents. The Act allows them, insofar as
state criminal law is concerned, to add the provision of marijuana, where
medically recommended or approved, as one more arrow in their caregiving
quiver. It simply does not provide similar protection where the provision of
marijuana is itself the substance of the relationship.
B. Sufficiency of the Evidence to Support an Instruction on the
Primary Caregiver Affirmative Defense
We turn to the merits of Mentch’s request for a primary caregiver
instruction in light of the evidence he adduced and the evidence he sought to
adduce.
“It is well settled that a defendant has a right to have the trial court . . . give
a jury instruction on any affirmative defense for which the record contains
substantial evidence [citation] — evidence sufficient for a reasonable jury to find

(footnote continued from previous page)
standard for the nature of the relationship and responsibility assumed. (See Colo.
Const., art. XVIII, § 14, subd. (1)(f) [must have “significant responsibility for
managing the well-being of a patient who has a debilitating medical condition”];
Nev. Rev. Stat. § 453A.080, subsec. 1(b) [must have “significant responsibility for
managing the well-being of a person diagnosed with a chronic or debilitating
medical condition”]; Or. Rev. Stat. § 475.302, subsec. (5) [must have “significant
responsibility for managing the well-being of a person who has been diagnosed
with a debilitating medical condition”].)
15


in favor of the defendant [citation] — unless the defense is inconsistent with the
defendant’s theory of the case [citation]. In determining whether the evidence is
sufficient to warrant a jury instruction, the trial court does not determine the
credibility of the defense evidence, but only whether ‘there was evidence which, if
believed by the jury, was sufficient to raise a reasonable doubt . . . .’ [Citations.]”
(People v. Salas (2006) 37 Cal.4th 967, 982-983; see also People v. Michaels,
supra, 28 Cal.4th at p. 529.) On appeal, we likewise ask only whether the
requested instruction was supported by substantial evidence — evidence that, if
believed by a rational jury, would have raised a reasonable doubt as to whether
Mentch was a primary caregiver and thus innocent of unlawful possession or
cultivation.
Mentch relies on three strands of evidence: his alleged provision of shelter
to one patient, his taking of other patients to medical appointments, and his
ongoing provision of both marijuana and marijuana advice and counseling to all
his patients. Even crediting this evidence, as we must for purposes of deciding
whether he was entitled to an instruction, we discern a series of interrelated
shortcomings. Some of Mentch’s caregiving was independent of providing
marijuana, but was not provided at or before the time he began providing
marijuana. Some of it may have been at or before the time he began providing
marijuana, but was not consistent. And some of it was consistent, but was not
independent of providing marijuana. But none of the evidence demonstrated
satisfaction of each of the three aspects of the responsibility clause we have
identified; none of it was sufficient to raise a reasonable doubt as to whether
Mentch had provided his patients consistent caregiving, independent of providing
them marijuana, at or before the time he began providing them marijuana.
First, Mentch argues Eldridge moved in shortly before the June 6, 2003,
search. Unfortunately for Mentch’s argument, the record directly contradicts this
16
assertion. Eldridge testified she lived elsewhere at the time, and Mentch did not
testify to the contrary. Even if the record supported it, however, the argument
would not address the lack of any evidence of a primary caregiving relationship
during the preceding year and a half during which Mentch was, by his own
admission, selling Eldridge marijuana; it would not retroactively bless Mentch’s
prior cultivation of marijuana and sale of marijuana to her.
Second, Mentch testified he took “a couple” patients to medical
appointments “sporadically.” A sporadic assumption of responsibility is the
antithesis of a consistent assumption of responsibility; it cannot satisfy the
responsibility clause.
Third, Mentch otherwise relied almost exclusively on the provision of
medical marijuana to establish a primary caregiving relationship. But the evidence
must establish an assumption of responsibility independent of the provision of
medical marijuana. This shortcoming is also intertwined with Mentch’s problems
showing a consistent assumption of responsibility: what “caregiving” was
consistent consisted only of providing marijuana, while what caregiving was
independent of providing marijuana was not consistent.
There is a final overarching problem with the evidence. Mentch testified to
providing marijuana to five patients and also to occasionally growing too much
and providing the excess to marijuana clubs. But where, as here, Mentch was
charged with single counts of possession and cultivation, primary caregiver status
would provide Mentch a defense only if it extended to all the marijuana he
possessed or cultivated. Consider, for example, a defendant who testified that he
(1) grew marijuana, (2) gave half to his critically ill daughter, a qualified patient
for whom he was the designated primary caregiver and by whom he was
reimbursed for growing expenses, and (3) sold the other half on the street.
However much the primary caregiver defense might protect his actions toward his
17
daughter, it would have no bearing on his case because a portion of his distribution
of marijuana for money would be unprotected from state prosecution. Similarly,
Mentch’s testimony that he “sporadically” took “a couple” of the five patients to
medical appointments, and his assertion (unsupported by the record) that he
provided Eldridge shelter, would, even if believed, do nothing to insulate from
prosecution his cultivation of and sale of marijuana to those for whom he did not
provide shelter or nonmarijuana-based health care. (See People v. Urziceanu,
supra, 132 Cal.App.4th at p. 773 [rejecting primary caregiver defense because the
defendant failed to adduce evidence he was “the primary caregiver for all of the
patients who patronized his cooperative” (italics added)].) Nor would it protect
him from prosecution for cultivating marijuana and providing it to cannabis clubs.
(See People v. Galambos, supra, 104 Cal.App.4th at pp. 1165-1167 [the primary
caregiver defense does not extend to supplying marijuana to a cooperative];
People v. Trippet, supra, 56 Cal.App.4th at p. 1546 [noting with approval a ballot
pamphlet argument that the Act was not intended to protect “ ‘anyone who grows
too much, or tries to sell it’ ”]; Ballot Pamp., Gen. Elec. (Nov. 5, 1996) rebuttal to
argument against Prop. 215, p. 61.)8
The Court of Appeal appropriately recognized that the right to a jury
resolution of all disputed factual issues is to be jealously protected. However, trial
courts are still responsible for acting as gatekeepers and determining whether the

8
Mentch’s primary caregiver defense depended on the jury crediting his own
testimony on the scope of his cultivation and distribution of marijuana. This is not
a case where, on the record presented, a rational jury could credit some evidence
that supported a primary caregiver defense and disbelieve other evidence that
suggested marijuana cultivation or possession above and beyond that immunized
from state prosecution by the Act. Nor is it a case where a defendant was charged
with multiple counts and a rational jury could conclude the Act provided a
complete defense to some counts but not others.
18


evidence presented, considered in the light most favorable to the defendant, could
establish an affirmative defense — here, whether it could give rise to a reasonable
doubt as to the existence of an established, legally cognizable primary caregiving
relationship. The trial court properly fulfilled its role here in declining to give a
primary caregiver instruction on this record.
II. Defenses Under the Medical Marijuana Program
Before us, Mentch contends in the alternative that the 2003 enactment of
the Medical Marijuana Program (Program) (§ 11362.7 et seq.) provides a defense
to cultivation and possession for sale charges for those who give assistance to
patients and primary caregivers in (1) administering medical marijuana, and
(2) acquiring the skills necessary to cultivate or administer medical marijuana
(§ 11362.765, subds. (a), (b)(3)). Accordingly, he argues the trial court breached
its duty to give sua sponte instructions on any affirmative defense supported by the
evidence. (See People v. Salas, supra, 37 Cal.4th at p. 982.) As Mentch
misinterprets the scope and effect of the Program, we conclude the trial court
committed no error in failing to instruct on any defense arising from it.
The Program was passed in part to address issues not included in the Act,
so as to promote the fair and orderly implementation of the Act and to “[c]larify
the scope of the application of the [A]ct.” (Stats. 2003, ch. 875, § 1; see People v.
Wright (2006) 40 Cal.4th 81, 93.) As part of its effort to clarify and smooth
implementation of the Act, the Program immunizes from prosecution a range of
conduct ancillary to the provision of medical marijuana to qualified patients.
(§ 11362.765.)
Having closely analyzed the text of section 11362.765, however, we
conclude it does not do what Mentch says it does. While the Program does convey
additional immunities against cultivation and possession for sale charges to
specific groups of people, it does so only for specific actions; it does not provide
19
globally that the specified groups of people may never be charged with cultivation
or possession for sale. That is, the immunities conveyed by section 11362.765
have three defining characteristics: (1) they each apply only to a specific group of
people; (2) they each apply only to a specific range of conduct; and (3) they each
apply only against a specific set of laws. Subdivision (a) provides in relevant part:
“Subject to the requirements of this article, the individuals specified in subdivision
(b) shall not be subject, on that sole basis, to criminal liability under [enumerated
sections of the Health and Safety Code].” (§ 11362.765, subd. (a), italics added.)
Thus, subdivision (b) identifies both the groups of people who are to receive
immunity and the “sole basis,” the range of their conduct, to which the immunity
applies, while subdivision (a) identifies the statutory provisions against which the
specified people and conduct are granted immunity.
For example, subdivision (b)(1) grants immunity to a “qualified patient or a
person with [a Program] identification card” who “transports or processes
marijuana for his or her own personal use.” (§ 11362.765, subd. (b)(1).) As we
explained in People v. Wright, supra, 40 Cal.4th 81, this means a specified group
— qualified patients and Program identification card holders — may not be
prosecuted under particular state laws for specific conduct — transportation or
processing for personal use — that otherwise might have been criminal. (Id. at
p. 94; see id. at p. 92 [recognizing that the Program supersedes statement in
People v. Young (2001) 92 Cal.App.4th 229, 237, that the Act does not immunize
marijuana transportation].)
The same is true of subdivision (b)(2) of section 11362.765, which likewise
extends to a specific group — primary caregivers — state immunity for particular
conduct — transportation, processing, administration, delivery, or donation — that
might otherwise fall afoul of state law. (See People v. Trippet, supra, 56
Cal.App.4th at p. 1550 [acknowledging that the plain language of the Act, if
20
literally applied, might fail to protect primary caregivers transporting marijuana
down a hallway to their patients].)9
Finally, as relevant here, subdivision (b)(3) of section 11362.765 grants
immunity to a specific group of individuals — those who assist in administering
medical marijuana or acquiring the skills necessary to cultivate it — for specific
conduct, namely, assistance in the administration of, or teaching how to cultivate,
medical marijuana.10 This immunity is significant; in its absence, those who assist
patients or primary caregivers in learning how to cultivate marijuana might
themselves be open to prosecution for cultivation. (§ 11358.)
Here, this means Mentch, to the extent he assisted in administering, or
advised or counseled in the administration or cultivation of, medical marijuana,
could not be charged with cultivation or possession for sale “on that sole basis.”
(§ 11362.765, subd. (a).) It does not mean Mentch could not be charged with
cultivation or possession for sale on any basis; to the extent he went beyond the
immunized range of conduct, i.e., administration, advice, and counseling, he
would, once again, subject himself to the full force of the criminal law. As it is
undisputed Mentch did much more than administer, advise, and counsel, the

9
Section 11362.765, subdivision (b)(2) incorporates the quantitative limits of
section 11362.77 in defining the scope of the immunity it provides. The
constitutionality of those limits is not before us here, and we express no opinion
on them. (See People v. Kelly, review granted Aug. 13, 2008, S164830.)
10
Section 11362.765, subdivision (b)(3) extends the statutory immunities of
subdivision (a) of that section to “[a]ny individual who provides assistance to a
qualified patient or a person with [a Program] identification card, or his or her
designated primary caregiver, in administering medical marijuana to the qualified
patient or person or acquiring the skills necessary to cultivate or administer
marijuana for medical purposes to the qualified patient or person.”
21


Program provides him no defense, and the trial court did not err in failing to
instruct on it.11
DISPOSITION
For the foregoing reasons, we reverse the Court of Appeal’s judgment.
WERDEGAR, J.
WE CONCUR:
GEORGE, C. J.
KENNARD, J.
BAXTER, J.
CHIN, J.
MORENO, J.
CORRIGAN, J.

11
In our grant of review, we asked the parties to brief whether a defendant’s
burden to raise a reasonable doubt regarding the compassionate use defense (see
People v. Mower, supra, 28 Cal.4th at p. 477) is a burden of production under
Evidence Code section 110 or a burden of persuasion under Evidence Code
section 115. We also asked the parties to address whether the trial court should
instruct the jury on a defendant’s burden and, if so, how. (Compare CALJIC No.
12.24.1 (2004 rev.) (7th ed. 2003) with CALCRIM No. 2370 (2008).) Because
Mentch has failed to show he was entitled to a primary caregiver instruction,
error — if any — in describing Mentch’s burden in this case would have been
harmless, so we need not and do not resolve these issues.
22



CONCURRING OPINION BY CHIN, J.

I entirely agree with, and have signed, the majority opinion. I write
separately to underscore the importance of an issue that we asked the parties to
brief but that, due to our holding on the merits of the compassionate use defense,
we do not have to decide in this case.
In People v. Mower (2002) 28 Cal.4th 457, we held that the defendant has
the burden to raise a reasonable doubt regarding the compassionate use defense.
As the majority opinion notes, the trial court instructed the jury on the
compassionate use defense by modifying the standard CALJIC instruction. The
instruction included this statement: “To establish the defense of compassionate
use, the burden is upon the defendant to raise a reasonable doubt as to guilt . . . .”
(CALJIC No. 12.24.1 (2004 rev.), quoted in maj. opn., ante, at p. 7, fn. 4.) The
standard CALCRIM instruction, by contrast, does not place any burden whatever
on the defendant. Instead, it states, “The People have the burden of proving
beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was not authorized to possess or
transport marijuana for medical purposes. If the People have not met this burden,
you must find the defendant not guilty of this crime.” (Judicial Council of Cal.
Crim. Jury Instns. (2008), CALCRIM No. 2363.)
Aware of the difference between the two standard instructions, and
concerned about whether the trial court properly instructed the jury in this case, we
directed the parties “to brief the additional question whether the defendant’s
1


burden to raise a reasonable doubt regarding the compassionate use defense (see
People v. Mower (2002) 28 Cal.4th 457) is a burden of producing evidence under
Evidence Code section 110 or a burden of proof under Evidence Code section 115.
(See, e.g., Evid. Code, §§ 500, 501, 502, 550, and the Law Revision Commission
Comments thereto; see also Pen. Code, § 189.5 and cases interpreting it, including
People v. Deloney (1953) 41 Cal.2d 832, 841-842, People v. Cornett (1948) 33
Cal.2d 33, 42, and People v. Loggins (1972) 23 Cal.App.3d 597; and People v.
Frazier (2005) 128 Cal.App.4th 807, 816-822.) In this regard, the parties should
also discuss whether the trial court should instruct the jury on the defendant’s
burden to raise a reasonable doubt and, if so, how. (Compare CALJIC No. 12.24.1
(2005 Revision) with . . . CALCRIM No. 2363.)”
The parties have briefed the question and agree on the answer. They agree
that the defendant’s burden is only to produce evidence under Evidence Code
section 110, and that once the trial court finds the defendant has presented
sufficient evidence to warrant an instruction on the defense, the defendant has
fully satisfied this burden; accordingly, the court should not instruct the jury on
any defense burden. (While generally agreeing that the standard CALCRIM
instruction is correct in this regard, the Attorney General does suggest one
modification of that instruction.)
If the parties’ answer to our question is correct, CALJIC No. 12.24.1
misinstructs the jury. The Attorney General argues that any error in this case was
harmless beyond a reasonable doubt for two reasons: (1) error in requiring the
defendant to raise a reasonable doubt as to a defense is inherently harmless in light
of the instructions as a whole, which make clear to the jury that the prosecution
has the overall burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt; and (2) defendant
simply did not establish the compassionate use defense. The majority concludes
that any error in this regard was harmless because defendant “has failed to show
2
he was entitled to a primary caregiver instruction . . . .” (Maj. opn., ante, at p. 22,
fn. 11.) I agree and thus further agree that we need not now decide the question
regarding the nature of defendant’s burden to raise a reasonable doubt. (Ibid.)
Nevertheless, the question remains important. As the Attorney General
notes in arguing that a defendant’s burden is only to produce evidence under
Evidence Code section 110, and that the court should not instruct the jury on this
burden, “An instruction on the defendant’s burden of production may run risks
that are best avoided.” Accordingly, the question needs to be resolved, preferably
sooner rather than later. In the meantime, trial courts might well be advised to be
cautious before instructing on any defense burden.
CHIN,
J.
I CONCUR:
CORRIGAN, J.
3

See next page for addresses and telephone numbers for counsel who argued in Supreme Court.

Name of Opinion People v. Mentch
__________________________________________________________________________________

Unpublished Opinion


Original Appeal
Original Proceeding
Review Granted
XXX 143 Cal.App.4th 1461
Rehearing Granted

__________________________________________________________________________________

Opinion No.

S148204
Date Filed: November 24, 2008
__________________________________________________________________________________

Court:

Superior
County: Santa Cruz
Judge: Samuel S. Stevens

__________________________________________________________________________________

Attorneys for Appellant:

Lawrence A. Gibbs, under appointment by the Supreme Court, and Joseph M. Bochner, under appointment
by the Court of Appeal, for Defendant and Appellant.

Drug Policy Alliance, Daniel Abrahamson, Tamar Todd and Theshia Naidoo for Marcus A. Conant, Robert
J. Melamede and Gerald F. Uelmen as Amici Curiae on behalf of Defendant and Appellant.

Joseph D. Elford for Americans for Safe Access as Amicus Curiae on behalf of Defendant and Appellant.


__________________________________________________________________________________

Attorneys for Respondent:

Bill Lockyer and Edmund G. Brown, Jr., Attorneys General, Donald E. de Nicola, Deputy State Solicitor
General, Robert R. Anderson and Dane R. Gillette, Chief Assistant Attorneys General, Gerald A. Engler,
Assistant Attorney General, Moona Nandi, Laurence K. Sullivan and Michele J. Swanson, Deputy
Attorneys General, for Plaintiff and Respondent.


1

Counsel who argued in Supreme Court (not intended for publication with opinion):

Lawrence A. Gibbs
P.O. Box 7639
Berkeley, CA 94707
(510) 525-6847

Michele J. Swanson
Deputy Attorney General
455 Golden Gate Avenue, Suite 11000
San Francisco, CA 94102-7004
(415) 703-5703

2


Petition for review after the Court of Appeal reversed a judgment of conviction of criminal offenses. This case includes the following issues: (1) Should the trial court have instructed the jury, as requested, on the "primary caregiver" affirmative defense under the Compassionate Use Act (Health & Saf., Code, section 11362, subd. (e))? (2) If so, what is the standard of review for such instructional error? (3) Is the defendant's burden to raise a reasonable doubt regarding the compassionate use defense a burden of producing evidence under Evidence Code section 110 or a burden of proof under Evidence Code section 115? (4) Should the trial court instruct the jury on the defendant's burden to raise a reasonable doubt and, if so, how?

Opinion Information
Date:Citation:Docket Number:Category:Status:
Mon, 11/24/200845 Cal. 4th 274, 195 P.3d 1061, 85 Cal. Rptr. 3d 480S148204Review - Criminal Appealclosed; remittitur issued

Parties
1The People (Plaintiff and Respondent)
Represented by Michele Joette Swanson
Office of the Attorney General
455 Golden Gate Avenue, Suite 11000
San Francisco, CA

2Mentch, Roger William (Defendant and Appellant)
Represented by Lawrence A. Gibbs
Attorney at Law
P.O. Box 7639
Berkeley, CA

3Americans for Safe Access (Amicus curiae)
Represented by Joseph David Elford
Americans for Safe Access
1322 Webster Street, Suite 208
Oakland, CA

4Conant, Marcus A. (Amicus curiae)
Represented by Daniel N. Abrahamson
Attorney at Law
819 Bancroft Way
Berkeley, CA

5Melamede, Robert J. (Amicus curiae)
Represented by Daniel N. Abrahamson
Attorney at Law
819 Bancroft Way
Berkeley, CA

6Uelmen, Gerlad F. (Amicus curiae)
Represented by Daniel N. Abrahamson
Attorney at Law
819 Bancroft Way
Berkeley, CA


Opinion Authors
OpinionJustice Kathryn M. Werdegar
ConcurJustice Ming W. Chin

Disposition
Nov 24 2008Opinion: Reversed

Dockets
Nov 20 2006Petition for review filed
  The People, Respondent by Michele J. Swanson, counsel
Nov 21 2006Record requested
 
Nov 22 2006Received Court of Appeal record
  one file jacket/briefs/accordian file
Jan 11 2007Time extended to grant or deny review
  The time for granting or denying review in the above-entitled matter is hereby extended to and including February 16, 2007, or the date upon which review is either granted or denied.
Feb 7 2007Petition for review granted (criminal case)
  In addition to the issues presented in the petition for review, the parties are directed to brief the additional question whether the defendant's burden to raise a reasonable doubt regarding the compassionate use defense (see People v. Mower (2002) 28 Cal.4th 457) is a burden of producing evidence under Evidence Code section 110 or a burden of proof under Evidence Code section 115. (See, e.g., Evid. Code, ?? 500, 501, 502, 550, and the Law Revision Commission Comments thereto; see also Pen. Code, ? 189.5 and cases interpreting it, including People v. Deloney (1953) 41 Cal.2d 832, 841-842, People v. Cornett (1948) 33 Cal.2d 33, 42, and People v. Loggins (1972) 23 Cal.App.3d 597; and People v. Frazier (2005) 128 Cal.App.4th 807, 816-822.) In this regard, the parties should also discuss whether the trial court should instruct the jury on the defendant's burden to raise a reasonable doubt and, if so, how. (Compare CALJIC No. 12.24.1 (2005 Revision) with Judicial Council of Cal. Crim. Jury Instns. (2006-2007), CALCRIM No. 2363.) votes: George, C.J., Kennard, Baxter, Werdegar, Chin & Corrigan, JJ.
Feb 16 2007Counsel appointment order filed
  Upon request of appellant for appointment of counsel, Lawrence Gibbs is hereby appointed to represent appellant on the appeal now pending in this court. Appellant's brief on the merits must be served and filed on or before thirty (30) days from the date respondent's opening brief on the merits is filed.
Mar 1 2007Request for extension of time filed
  31 day extension to April 9, 2007, to file opneing brief on the merits.
Mar 19 2007Extension of time granted
  On application of respodent and good cause appearing, it is ordered that the time to serve and file the opening brief on the merits is extended to and including April 9, 2007.
Mar 28 2007Request for extension of time filed
  30 day extension to May 9, 2007, to file opneing brief on the merits.
Apr 9 2007Extension of time granted
  On application of respondent and good cause appearing, it is ordered that the time to serve and file the opening brief on the merits is extended to and including May 9, 2007. No further extension are contemplated.
May 9 2007Request for extension of time filed
  to file the opening brief on the merits, to May 11 the People, respondent
May 10 2007Opening brief on the merits filed
  The People, respondent Michele J. Swanson, Counsel
May 10 2007Extension of time granted
  On application of respondent and good cause appearing, it is ordered that the time to serve and file the opening brief on the merits is extended to and including May 11, 2007. No further extensions of time will be granted.
Jun 8 2007Request for extension of time filed
  by appellant requesting a 30-day extension to and including July 8, 2007, to file appellant's answer brief on the merits.
Jun 18 2007Extension of time granted
  On application of appellant and good cause appearing, it is ordered that the time to serve and file appellant's answer brief on the merits is hereby extended to and including July 8, 2007.
Jul 5 2007Request for extension of time filed
  to August 7, 2007 to file answer brief on the merits.
Jul 16 2007Extension of time granted
  On application of appellant and good cause appearing, it is ordered that the time to serve and file the answer brief on the merits is extended to and including August 7, 2007.
Aug 6 2007Request for extension of time filed
  to August 13, 2007 to file answer brief on the merits.
Aug 10 2007Extension of time granted
  On application of appellant and good cause appearing, it is ordered that the time to serve and file the answer brief on the merits is extended to and including August 13, 2007. No further extensions are contemplated.
Aug 13 2007Answer brief on the merits filed
  Roger W. Mentch, appellant Lawrence A. Gibbs, Counsel
Aug 13 2007Motion to dismiss filed (non-AA)
  Roger W. Mentch, appellant Lawrence A. Gibbs, Counsel
Sep 4 2007Reply brief filed (case fully briefed)
  The People, respondent Michele J. Swanson, Deputy Attorney General
Sep 4 2007Opposition filed
  Respondent's Opposition to Motion to Dismiss Review.
Oct 3 2007Received application to file Amicus Curiae Brief
  Americans for Safe Access, non-party by Joseph D. Elford, Counsel
Oct 3 2007Received application to file Amicus Curiae Brief
  Marcus A. Conant, M.D.; Robert J. Melamede, Ph.D, and Gerald F. Uelman, non-parties by Daniel Abrahamson, Counsel
Oct 5 2007Permission to file amicus curiae brief granted
  The application of Marcus A. Conant, M.D., Robert J. Melamede, Ph.D, and Gerald F. Uelmen for permission to file an amicus curiae brief in support of respondent is hereby granted. An answer thereto may be served and filed by any party within twenty days of the filing of the brief.
Oct 5 2007Permission to file amicus curiae brief granted
  The application of American for Safe Access for permission to file an amicus curiae brief in support of respondent is hereby granted. An answer thereto may be served and filed by any party within twenty days of the filing of the brief.
Oct 5 2007Amicus curiae brief filed
  Marcus A. Conant, M.D., Robert J. Melamede, Ph.D, and Gerald F. Uelman in support of respondent. by Daniel Abrahamson, Counsel
Oct 5 2007Amicus curiae brief filed
  Americans For Safe Access in support of respondent by Joseph D. Elford, Counsel.
Nov 15 2007Compensation awarded counsel
  Atty Gibbs
Aug 20 2008Case ordered on calendar
  to be argued Tuesday, October 7, 2008, at 1:30 p.m., in Riverside County
Aug 28 2008Motion denied
  Respondent Roger Mentch's motion to dismiss, filed August 13, 2007, is denied. Respondent Roger Mentch's alternative motion seeking leave to file supplemental briefing is also denied. In denying these motions, the court does not intend to foreclose the parties from discussing at oral argument, as they see fit, the effect of the provisions of the Medical Marijuana Program, Health and Safety Code section 11362.7 et seq., on the question presented.
Sep 2 2008Request for Extended Media coverage Filed
  The California Channel by James Gualtieri
Sep 5 2008Request for Extended Media coverage Granted
  The request for media coverage, filed by the California Channel on September 2, 2008, is granted, subject to the conditions set forth in rule 1.150, of the California Rules of Court.
Sep 25 2008Received:
  Respondent's additional authorities for oral argument
Sep 26 2008Received:
  Appellant's additional authorities for oral argument
Sep 29 2008Received:
  "Appellant's Supplemental Brief"
Oct 3 2008Request for Extended Media coverage Granted
  The request for extended media coverge of the Supreme Court's Oral Argument Special Session on October 7 and 8, 2008, filed on October 1, 2008, by The Desert Sun to serve as pool photographer is granted, subject to the conditions set forth in rule 1.150, California Rules of Court.
Oct 3 2008Request for Extended Media coverage Granted
  The request for extended media coverage of the Supreme Court's Oral Argument Special Session on October 7 and 8, 2008, filed by the California State University, San Bernardino-Palm Desert Campus photographer on September 26, 2008, is granted, subject to the conditions set forth in rule 1.150, California Rules of Court.
Oct 7 2008Cause argued and submitted
 
Nov 21 2008Notice of forthcoming opinion posted
 
Nov 24 2008Opinion filed: Judgment reversed
  The judgment of the court of appeal is reversed. Majority opinion by Werdegar, J. -----joined by George, C.J., Kennard, Baxter, Chin, Moreno, Corrigan, JJ. Concurring Opinion by Chin, J. -- joined by Corrigan, J.
Nov 25 2008Request for modification of opinion filed
  The People, plaintiff and respondent Michelle Swanson, Dep. A.G.
Dec 17 2008Opinion modified - no change in judgment
  THE COURT: The People's request for modification of the court's opinion filed herein on November 24, 2008, is granted. It is ordered that, at page 6 of the filed opinion, footnote 3 is modified to to read as follows: The Act extends limited immunity from state prosecution for cultivation or possession to both qualified patients and their designated "primary caregiver[s}." (? 11362.5, subd. (d).) On the court's own motion, a new footnote 5 is ordered inserted after the partial paragraph at the top of page 11 of the filed opinion that ends with ". . . to bless prior use].)" The footnote shall read as follows: In holding that the assumption of primary caregiver responsibilities cannot apply retroactively to immunize prior cultivation or possession of marijuana, we do not suggest it would not apply prospectively. Defendants who show they satisfied all other prerequisites for primary caregiver status for a given patient at some point after the onset of providing marijuana may avail themselves of the defense going forward, even if they remain subject to prosecution for actions taken prior to assumption of a primary caregiver role. All subsequent footnotes shall be renumbered accordingly. This modification does not affect the judgment. Votes: George, C.J., Kennard, Baxter, Werdegar, Chin, Moreno and Corrigan, JJ.
Dec 17 2008Request for modification granted
  The opinion is modified.
Dec 23 2008Compensation awarded counsel
  Atty Gibbs
Jan 15 2009Remittitur issued (criminal case)
 
Feb 4 2009Motion filed (non-AA)
  to recall the remittitur Roger Mentch, appellant Lawrence Gibbs, ccounsel
Feb 25 2009Order filed
  The motion to recall the remittitur, filed February 4, 2009, is denied without prejudice to appellant Roger Mentch filing an application in the Court of Appeal to recall that court's remittitur (Cal. Rules of Court, rule 8.272(c)), and without prejudice to the Court of Appeal's power to recall its remittitur and conduct such "further proceedings in the Court of Appeal" (id., rule 8.272(b)(2)(A)) as it may deem warranted.
Aug 12 2009Returned record
  2 doghouses via OnTrac Note: The two doghouses are expected to be returned back to us from CA 6 in two weeks.

Briefs
May 10 2007Opening brief on the merits filed
 
Aug 13 2007Answer brief on the merits filed
 
Sep 4 2007Reply brief filed (case fully briefed)
 
Oct 5 2007Amicus curiae brief filed
 
Oct 5 2007Amicus curiae brief filed
 
Brief Downloads
application/pdf icon
mentch2.pdf (1764999 bytes) - Petition for review
application/pdf icon
mentch3.pdf (1601372 bytes) - Attorney General's brief
application/pdf icon
mentch4.pdf (2517043 bytes) - Mentch's brief
application/pdf icon
mentch5.pdf (478609 bytes) - Attorney General's reply brief
application/pdf icon
mentch6.pdf (324920 bytes) - Amicus curiae brief (Americans for Safe Access)
application/pdf icon
mentch7.pdf (865920 bytes) - Amicus curiae brief (Conant)
If you'd like to submit a brief document to be included for this opinion, please submit an e-mail to the SCOCAL website
Jul 4, 2011
Annotated by diana teasland

Written by Daniel Muto

Issues Presented:
(1) Should the trial court have instructed the jury on the "primary caregiver" affirmative defense under the Compassionate Use Act (“the Act”)?
(2) If yes, what is the appropriate standard of review?
(3) Is the defendant's burden to raise a reasonable doubt regarding the compassionate use defense a burden of producing evidence under Evidence Code section 110 or a burden of proof under Evidence Code section 115?
(4) Should the trial court instruct the jury on the defendant's burden to raise a reasonable doubt and, if so, how?

II. FACTUAL HISTORY

In 2003, Roger Mentch was arrested and charged with the cultivation of marijuana and its possession for sale after a bank teller noticed a series of suspicious bank transactions (specifically, deposits of nearly $11,000 in cash that smelled very strongly of marijuana over a two month period) and warned the Santa Cruz County Sheriff’s Office about the nature of these deposits. Upon further investigation, the Santa Cruz sheriff’s department obtained a warrant to search Mentch’s house for marijuana. A search of the premises revealed a small amount of cash ($253), drug paraphernalia, and “several elaborate marijuana growing set ups.” Mentch admitted to smoking marijuana on a daily basis, and that he sold some of the drugs to five medicinal marijuana users. However, he also informed the police that he too had a medical recommendation for marijuana.
Witness testimony later revealed that Mentch had opened the Hemporium, “a caregiving and consultancy business,” in March of 2003 and that he had sold marijuana to five medicinal marijuana users, often at discount prices, out of this business. Mentch also occasionally sold any surplus marijuana to two different cannabis clubs. He used the money he received from selling marijuana to pay for “nutrients, utilities and part of the rent,” and did not profit from his sales most of the time. Mentch’s relationship with his clients consisted of taking “a couple of them” to medical appointments on a “sporadic” basis, counseling them about methods of marijuana use, and selling them cannabis.

III. PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Before trial, the prosecutor filed a motion to exclude any references to
Mentch’s being a “primary caregiver” for Laura Eldridge and Leland Besson, the only two of Mentch’s five Hemporium customers to respond to his requests to serve as witnesses in his trial. After Eldridge and Besson testified, the trial court concluded that the evidence was insufficient to demonstrate that Mentch has provided primary caregiver services. Specifically, the court rejected the argument that a person could qualify as a patient’s primary caregiver whenever he or she consistently assumed responsibility for a patient’s health by providing medical marijuana upon a doctor’s recommendation.
During the discussion of jury instructions, Mentch requested the standard jury instruction for affirmative defenses under The Act. § 1136.5 outlines the permissible affirmative defenses under The Act, and states “The Act extends immunity from state prosecution for cultivation or possession for sale to both qualified patients and their designated “primary caregiver[s].” The trial court agreed to give the instruction with respect to the qualified patient defense, but stayed with its prior ruling that the portion of the instruction relating to the primary caregiver defense would be omitted. Upon receiving these instructions, the jury convicted Mentch of both cultivation and possession for sale. The trial court suspended the imposition of Mentch’s sentence and imposed three years’ probation.
Mentch appealed the trial court’s decision to the California Court of Appeals, which reversed his convictions. The Court of Appeals concluded that People v. Michaels (2002) 28 Cal.4th 486, dictated this reversal because there was sufficient evidence to support an instruction of the primary caregiver defense. The California Supreme Court granted review to address the meaning of “primary caregiver” under the Act.
The Supreme Court held that the statutory definition of primary caregiver has two
parts: (1) a primary caregiver must have been designated as such by the medicinal marijuana patient; and (2) he or she must be a person “who has consistently assumed responsibility for the housing, health, or safety of” the patient. As a result, any defendant asserting a primary caregiver defense must prove, at the very least, that he or she (1) consistently provided caregiving, (2) that is independent of any assistance in taking medical marijuana, (3) at or before the time he or she assumed responsibility for assisting with medical marijuana. In so holding, the court expressed its agreement with the Court of Appeals decision in People v. Frazier (2005) 128 Cal.App.4th 807, 823 that reject the argument that “a primary caregiver is a person who ‘consistently grows and supplies physician approved marijuana for a medical marijuana patient.”
The court reiterated, “There has to be something more to be a caregiver than simply providing marijuana. Otherwise there would be no reason to the definition of a caregiver, because anybody who would be providing marijuana related services would qualify as a caregiver.” Mentch pointed to three strands of evidence in an attempt to establish himself as a “primary caregiver”, but the court rejected each in turn. First, Mentch claimed to have provided shelter to Laura Eldridge, but the Court notes that even if this were true, Mentch’s provision of shelter does nothing to insulate him from the his sale and cultivation of marijuana to those for whom he did not provide shelter (namely the other four customers of Hemporium and the two cannabis clubs to which he sold surplus marijuana). The court rejected Mentch’s second string of evidence – that he took “a couple” of his customers to medical appointments “sporadically” – because it lacked the consistency required to qualify for the primary caregiver defense. Finally, Mentch’s argument that provision of medicinal marijuana, in and of itself, was sufficient to establish the primary caregiver relationship was quickly dismissed as counter to well-established precedent suggesting the opposite.
The Supreme Court eventually held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion by failing to instruct the jury on the primary caregiver defense.

Jul 4, 2011
Annotated by colin mcdonell

Facts

Defendant Robert Mentch began growing marijuana after obtaining a medical marijuana recommendation in 2002. In 2003, he opened the Hemporium, a caregiving and consultancy business giving people safe access to medical marijuana. He regularly provided medical marijuana to five individuals, and occasionally took extra marijuana to cannabis clubs. Mentch counseled his customers about the best strains of marijuana to grow, the cleanest way to use it, and took several of them to medical appointments on a “sporadic” basis.

One of his customers, Leland Besson, had a medical marijuana recommendation for several ailments, and regularly purchased medical marijuana from the Hemporium. Laura Eldridge, who was seeing Mentch romantically at the time of his arrest, also had a medical marijuana recommendation and regularly purchased marijuana from the Hemporium.

In 2003, a bank teller informed the authorities that money Mentch was depositing smelled heavily of marijuana, and after obtaining a warrant, an officer found nearly 200 marijuana plants in his home. Mentch was arrested and charged with cultivation of marijuana, Cal. Health & Safety Code section 11358, and possession of marijuana for sale. Cal. Health & Safety Code section 11359.

Procedural History

Before trial, the prosecutor filed a motion in limine to exclude any reference by counsel to Mentch being a “primary caregiver” under the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, Cal. Health & Safety Code section 11362.5, for either Eldridge or Besson, which the trial court granted. After Eldrige and Besson testified, the court determined that there was insufficient evidence to show that Mentch had provided primary caregiver services.

After the close of evidence, Mentch requested jury instructions for affirmative defenses under the act, on the theory that he was both a qualified patient entitled to cultivate marijuana for his own use and that he was a primary caregiver entitled to cultivate marijuana for sale to others. The court agreed to allow a jury instruction articulating a qualified patient defense, but omitted the portion relating to a primary caregiver defense. The jury convicted Mentch of both cultivation and possession for sale.

The Court of Appeal reversed. It held that there was sufficient evidence to support an instruction on the primary caregiver defense, and the trial court erred in redacting all references to the defense in the jury instruction.

The Supreme Court granted review to address the meaning of “primary caregiver” under the act, and reversed.

Issues

What must a defendant prove to assert a “primary caregiver” defense under the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, Cal. Health & Safety Code section 11362.5? Did Defendant, whose caregiving consisted primarily of supplying marijuana and instructing in its use, produce sufficient evidence to entitle him to a jury instruction on the primary caregiver defense? Did the trial court otherwise err in failing to instruct the jury on additional defenses under the Medical Marijuana Program, Cal. Health & Safety Code section 11362.7?

Holding

A defendant asserting a primary caregiver defense must prove that he was (1) consistently providing caregiving, (2) independent of any assistance in taking medical marijuana, (3) at or before the time he assumed responsibility for assisting with medical marijuana. Defendant did not raise sufficient evidence to allow a reasonable jury to find that he was a primary caregiver. Nor was Defendant entitled to other defenses under the Medical Marijuana Program.

Analysis

The court interprets voter initiatives using the same principles governing legislative enactments, looking first to the text, and then to extrinsic evidence only if the text is ambiguous. California Health & Safety Code section 11362.5(d) provides that the offenses of cultivation and possession 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.” California Health & Safety Code section 11362.5(e) defines “primary caregiver” as “the individual designated by the person exempted under this section who has consistently assumed responsibility for the housing, health, or safety of that person.”

Three aspects of the structure of the text lead to the conclusion that a defendant asserting a primary caregiver defense must prove that he was (1) consistently providing caregiving, (2) independent of any assistance in taking medical marijuana, (3) at or before the time he assumed responsibility for assisting with medical marijuana.

First, the text requiring that the primary caregiver have “consistently” assumed responsibility suggests an ongoing relationship, marked by regular actions over time. Second, the use of the past participle—“has consistently assumed”—reinforces the inference that the caregiving relationship must arise at or before the assistance in administering marijuana. Otherwise, an individual could immunize herself from prosecution for previous cultivation or possession for sale by establishing an after-the-fact caregiving relationship. Finally, the proof of a caregiving relationship must be independent of the administration of medical marijuana, or else cultivating medical marijuana would in itself establish a defense for cultivating medical marijuana.

Mentch did not produce sufficient evidence to be entitled to a primary caregiver defense. A defendant is entitled to an affirmative defense if the record contains sufficient evidence to allow a reasonable jury to find in favor of the defendant. People v. Salas (2006) 37 Cal. 4th 967, 982–983, 38 Cal. Rptr. 3d 624, 127 P.3d 40. None of the evidence Mentch provided satisfied all three requirements of the primary caregiver defense. Even if Eldridge moved in with Mentch shortly before the search, he was selling her marijuana prior to her moving in, and produced no evidence that a primary caregiving relationship existed prior to her moving in. That Mentch took several patients to medical appointments “sporadically” does not establish a consistent assumption of responsibility. And Mentch relied almost exclusively on providing medical marijuana to prove a caregiving relationship, failing to produce independent evidence. Finally, Mentch testified to giving excess marijuana to marijuana clubs, which would not be protected even if Mentch had primary caregiver status with respect to his customers.

Nor did the trial court err in failing to give affirmative defense instructions sua sponte based on the Medical Marijuana Program. Cal. Health & Safety Code section 11362.7. The Medical Marijuana Program provides defenses to specific groups of people for specific types of conduct, but the activity Mentch engaged in did not qualify for any of them.

The judgment of the Court of Appeals was reversed.

Justice Chin concurred in the opinion but wrote separately to address whether the defendant’s burden to raise a reasonable doubt regarding the compassionate use defense is a burden of producing evidence under Evidence Code section 110 or a burden of proof under Evidence Code section 115. Both parties agreed in their briefs that section 110 governs and, if they are correct, the standard jury instructions for affirmative defenses under the act misinstructs the jury on the law by implying that the defendant bears the burden of proof. The court need not reach the issue because, since defendant was not entitled to the compassionate use defense, any error in the instruction was harmless.

Tags

Medical marijuana, primary caregiver, jury instructions, affirmative defense, burden of proof, burden of production, harmless error, voter intent, initiatives

Annotation by Colin McDonell.