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California v. Spark

Citation. People v. Spark, 16 Cal. Rptr. 3d 840, 121 Cal. App. 4th 259, 2004 Cal. Daily Op. Service 6972, 2004 Daily Journal DAR 9493.
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Brief Fact Summary.

Two sheriff deputies arrived at Appellants mothers home and found three plants of marijuana. Appellant indicated he is legally authorized to possess and smoke marijuana because he has a medical marijuana recommendation from a doctor. The State claims his illness is not protected under the statute because he is not seriously ill. Appellant claims his illness is protected under the statute.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

When plain meaning of the statute appeared to be ambiguous, even to the slightest degree, the court must evaluate the legislatures intent of the statute.


Kern County Sheriff obtained an anonymous tip that there was marijuana growing in Zelma Spark’s trailer backyard. Two sheriff’s deputies went to the home and saw a marijuana plant in the backyard that was about six feet tall. The deputies knocked on the front door to contact Ms. Spark about the marijuana.  Ms. Spark indicated that her son, Noel Spark, had permission to grow the plants. Thereafter, the deputies went into the backyard and found two more plants of marijuana. The deputies seized all three plants. The following day, Appellant contacted the police, told the police he had been staying there for a few days and not lived in San Bernardino County, and admitted that the plants seized from his mother’s house were his and he tried to keep the plants hidden. Also, Appellant admitted that he smoked approximately a half-ounce of marijuana per week for chronic back pain and he had a marijuana prescription from Dr. William Eidelman, who never reviewed Appellant’s medical records before making the recommendation. Undercover police officers went to see Dr. Eidelman to obtain a marijuana prescription and the officers realized that Dr. Eidelman would recommend the prescription for marijuana in exchange for $250. Likewise, Dr. Eidelman was found to be unlicensed to practice medicine at the time of trial. Moreover, Appellant also had Dr. David Bearman testify at his trial. Dr. Bearman reviewed Appellants medical history and evaluated his physical condition and determined he met the criteria for the recommendation because he suffered from chronic back pain.


Whether the California Statute, Compassionate Use Act of 1996, requires the Appellant to prove he was seriously ill to be entitled to the statute’s protection.


Yes, the statute required Appellant to be seriously ill to receive protections under the statute, and Appellant is entitled to the protection because the medical recommendation is valid.


Appellant contends that the phrase “seriously ill†in the statute does not describe the purpose of the statute; rather, it is merely prefatory. Further, Appellant contends that the phrase at the end of the statute, “recommended by a physician who has determined that the person’s health would benefit from the use of marijuana in . . . treatment,†ends with a catchall phrase, “or any other illness for which marijuana provides relief. The Court agreed with Appellant and held that the California Legislature did not intend to limit the statute to the list of illness the statutes has enumerated, but rather, to allow the physician to make a medical determination if medical marijuana is the appropriate remedy for their serious illness.

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