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State v. Reis

Supreme Court of Washington, En Banc

May 7, 2015

The State of Washington, Respondent,
William Michael Reis, Petitioner

Argued February 10, 2015

Appeal from King County Superior Court. 12-1-05360-6. Honorable Andrea A. Darvas.

Kurt E. Boehl and Stephanie J. Boehl (of KB Law Group PLLC ), for petitioner.

Daniel T. Satterberg, Prosecuting Attorney, and James M. Whisman, Deputy, for respondent.

AUTHOR: Justice Charles K. Wiggins. WE CONCUR: Chief Justice Barbara A. Madsen, Justice Charles W. Johnson, Justice Susan Owens, Justice Mary E. Fairhurst, Justice Debora L. Stephens, Justice Steven C. González, Justice Sheryl Gordon McCloud, Justice Mary I. Yu.


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Charles K. Wiggins J.

[183 Wn.2d 200] ¶ 1 William Reis was charged with manufacturing a controlled substance after a search of his home produced evidence of a marijuana grow operation. Reis moved to suppress the results of the search on the ground that the search warrant was invalid, arguing that the 2011 amendments to the Washington State Medical Use of Cannabis Act (MUCA), chapter 69.51A RCW, decriminalized the possession of cannabis for medical use. The trial court denied [183 Wn.2d 201] Reis's motion to suppress, and the Court of Appeals granted discretionary review and affirmed.

¶ 2 The 2011 amendments to RCW 69.51A.040 provide in relevant part that the " medical use of cannabis in accordance with the terms and conditions of this chapter does not constitute a crime ... ." (Emphasis added.) One of these " terms and conditions" is that a medical user must be registered with a registry established by section 901 of the 2011 MUCA amendments. RCW 69.51A.040(2), (3). But the governor vetoed section 901, and no registry currently exists. It is thus impossible to register " in accordance with the terms and conditions of this chapter ..." after the governor's veto.

¶ 3 We hold that the plain language of MUCA, supported by the context in which the language appears, the overall statutory scheme, and the legislative intent as captured by the governor's veto message, does not support the conclusion that the medical use of marijuana is not a crime. Therefore, we affirm the Court of Appeals and remand for trial.


¶ 4 Detective Thomas Calabrese received an anonymous tip in 2012 from an individual living in the Shorewood area of Burien, informing him that a man named " William" was actively growing marijuana in a house in that neighborhood. The informant, who feared retaliation by Reis, declined to provide any additional information. Calabrese later drove through Shorewood and was able to observe six marijuana plants growing on the back porch of a home. He then observed an individual tending those plants. He noted the address and left.

¶ 5 Calabrese then asked and was granted permission to use a neighbor's yard to observe the porch. From this vantage point, Calabrese was able to observe the plants on the porch. He also heard a distinct humming sound coming [183 Wn.2d 202] from the northwest side of the target home and observed black plastic covering the daylight basement window. Calabrese also noticed condensation on this window.

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¶ 6 Leaving his vantage point, Calabrese drove past the target house and noted the license plate number on the vehicle parked in front of the house. A directory search of the plate indicated that the vehicle belonged to William Reis. Calabrese began checking that name and discovered that Reis had been arrested in 2005 for domestic violence. During that arrest, officers discovered a large marijuana grow operation in the basement, as well as a rifle and $ 18,000 cash hidden in the attic. Additional searches of Reis's financial records in 2005 connected him to a large marijuana grow operation in California. Calabrese also learned that Reis had been arrested in 2011 for possession of 1.3 grams of marijuana.

¶ 7 Calabrese obtained Reis's 2005 booking photo and found that it matched the individual he had observed tending the marijuana plants on the porch. He then returned to Shorewood to interview neighbors in an effort to determine whether Reis was selling or distributing marijuana. However, none of Reis's neighbors would talk to him. They each asserted that they were afraid of Reis and that they did not want Reis to retaliate against them. One of the neighbors even informed Calabrese that they had purchased a firearm specifically to protect themselves from Reis.

¶ 8 Calabrese put all of this information in an affidavit of probable cause to support a search warrant of Reis's home. Judge Eide granted a search warrant, finding probable cause to believe that Reis was violating Washington's Uniform Controlled Substances Act, chapter 69.50 RCW. [1] A [183 Wn.2d 203] search of Reis's home pursuant to the search warrant revealed plants, scales, ledgers, sales receipts, and tools indicative of a marijuana grow operation. The search also revealed 37 plants and 210.72 ounces of cannabis. [2]

¶ 9 The State charged Reis with violating chapter 69.50 RCW, the Uniform Controlled Substances Act. Reis moved to suppress the evidence found in his home, asserting that the search warrant was not supported by probable cause. The trial court denied Reis's motion to suppress. The trial court granted Reis's motion for expedited discretionary review in the Court of Appeals and certified this issue for immediate review under RAP 2.3(b)(4) [3] before Reis's scheduled trial date. The Court of Appeals, Division One, granted discretionary review and held in a published opinion that the authorized use of medical marijuana under RCW 69.51A.040 does not preclude an officer from searching; compliant use under the statute is an affirmative defense that does not negate probable cause required for a search warrant. State v. Reis, 180 Wn.App. 438, 322 P.3d 1238 (2014). We granted review and now affirm.


¶ 10 This case asks us to determine whether RCW 69.51A.040, as enacted following Governor Gregoire's 2011 veto, decriminalizes the medical use of marijuana. [4] In answering this question, we apply well established principles [183 Wn.2d 204] of statutory interpretation to chapter 69.51A RCW. These principles lead to the

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conclusion that the medical use of marijuana is not lawful because compliance with RCW 69.51A.040 is currently impossible. Further, we reject Reis's arguments regarding the effect of the governor's veto; nothing about the veto process changes our analysis of the enacted statute.

I. Standard of Review

¶ 11 We review questions of statutory interpretation de novo. Ass'n of Wash. Spirits & Wine Distribs. v. Wash. State Liquor Control Bd., 182 Wn.2d 342, 350, 340 P.3d 849 (2015). The court discerns legislative intent from the plain language enacted by the legislature, considering the text of the provision in question, the context of the statute in which the provision is found, related provisions, amendments to the provision, and the statutory scheme as a whole. Id. (citing Dep't of Ecology v. Campbell & Gwinn, LLC, 146 Wn.2d 1, 9-10, 43 P.3d 4 (2002)).

II. Overview of Washington's Medical Marijuana Laws

¶ 12 Marijuana is generally a schedule I unlawful controlled substance, the possession or cultivation of which is prohibited.[5] RCW 69.50.204(c)(22), .401(1). It has maintained this classification by the Washington State Legislature since 1971. RCW 69.50.204(c)(22). Since 1971, the possession, manufacture, and distribution of marijuana has been generally prohibited. See RCW 69.50.401-.455. However, in 1998, the legislature enacted the MUCA, chapter 69.51A RCW, creating an exception for the medicinal use of marijuana. This exception created an affirmative defense for qualifying patients and designated caregivers who could [183 Wn.2d 205] establish that they complied with the requirements of that chapter. Former RCW 69.51A.040(1) (1998).

¶ 13 In 2011, the legislature amended MUCA by adopting Engrossed Second Substitute Senate Bill (E2SSB) 5073. The stated purpose of these amendments, as asserted in section 101 (vetoed), was to ensure that

(a) Qualifying patients and designated providers complying with the terms of this act and registering with the department of health will no longer be subject to arrest or prosecution, other criminal sanctions, or civil ...

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