Law School Case Brief
Commonwealth v. Harrelson - 14 S.W.3d 541 (Ky. 2000)
In cases involving statutory interpretations, the duty of the court is to ascertain and give effect to the intent of the general assembly. The appellate court is not at liberty to add or subtract from the legislative enactment or discover meanings not reasonably ascertainable from the language used.
Appellee actor planted hemp seeds and he was cited for possession of marijuana, Ky. Rev. Stat. § 218A.1422 (1998). He moved to dismiss the charge, arguing that seeds did not come within the statutory definition of marijuana, or, alternatively, that the statute was unconstitutionally overbroad. After hearing to the bench, the judge determined that the statute was constitutionally defective. The trial judge further determined that the amendment to Ky. Rev. Stat. § 218A.010(9) had no rational basis, and thus, violated Ky. Const. § 2. The Court of Appeals remanded with directions to dismiss the appeal, holding that the appeal was taken from nonfinal orders.
Did the district court err in concluding that the possession of marijuana statute was unconstitutional?
The Court held that the district court exceeded its authority by improperly adding language to a statute and then, finding it unconstitutional, and that district court's decision was clearly erroneous, in part because of the presumption of constitutionality of a statute.
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