California v. Spark

16 Cal. Rptr. 3d 840, 121 Cal. App. 4th 259 (2004)

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California v. Spark

California Court of Appeal
16 Cal. Rptr. 3d 840, 121 Cal. App. 4th 259 (2004)

Facts

Noel Spark (defendant) suffered from chronic back pain. After a cursory examination, Dr. William Eidelman gave Spark a letter authorizing Spark to use medical marijuana to treat the pain. Spark subsequently began growing marijuana for personal consumption in the backyard of Spark’s mother’s home. After receiving an anonymous tip, two police officers went to Spark’s mother’s home, conducted a search, and found three live marijuana plants. Spark admitted to owning, growing, and consuming the plants to treat back pain pursuant to authorization from Dr. Eidelman. Spark was arrested and tried for illegally growing marijuana. At trial, the state showed that Dr. Eidelman’s medical license had recently been suspended for improperly providing marijuana authorizations to individuals without any medical conditions, including four undercover police officers. Spark countered with testimony from another doctor who thoroughly examined Spark postarrest and concluded that Spark suffered from serious chronic back pain that warranted treatment with medical marijuana. Spark argued that he should be acquitted under the affirmative defense set forth in California’s medical-marijuana law that allows an individual or primary caregiver to grow and possess a reasonable amount of marijuana for personal consumption under a doctor’s recommendation. The trial judge instructed the jury that, among other things, Spark needed to prove that Spark suffered from a serious illness to avail himself of the defense in the medical-marijuana law. As a result, both parties debated whether Spark had a serious illness during closing arguments. The jury ultimately agreed with the state and convicted Spark after finding that Spark did not suffer from a serious illness. Spark appealed, arguing that the jury instruction regarding proof of a serious illness was improper.

Rule of Law

Issue

Holding and Reasoning (Ardaiz, J.)

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