The ruling came after David Williams of Butte County was allegedly threatened by a sheriff's deputy to destroy all but 12 of 41 marijuana plants growing on his property in September of 2005. The deputy, who did not have a warrant to search the property according to court papers, threatened arrest and prosecution of Williams even after Williams produced paperwork that affirmed his status as a medical marijuana patient. Williams sued Butte County for damages and was awarded an unspecified amount of money after destroying most of his crop.
The County appealed the court decision, calling into question whether California medical marijuana laws afforded citizens the right to sue law enforcement following proprietary damages, lawful or unlawful. The Court of Appeals, in a 2-to-1 decision last Wednesday, sided with Butte County Superior Court, stating that the Medical Marijuana Patients Act did not revoke the constitutional right to sue another party for proprietary damage sustained by illegal search and seizure.
The ruling has come under criticism from law enforcements and citizen anti-drug campaigns, which argue that, despite state law, federal law does not afford any American citizen the right to use or possess marijuana.