Medical Cannabis

The law governing medical marijuana use in Sacramento and California is constantly changing. If you have a valid ID card authorizing you to use marijuana for medical reasons, this can prevent an arrest for simple possession under California law. However, possession of large quantities, cultivating, or selling marijuana may present complex legal issues, depending on the terms of your recommendation, the circumstances under which you have been arrested, and what statements you make to law enforcement when you are contacted. Although California has decriminalized marijuana possession and use for medical purposes, federal law continues to criminalize possession and cultivation of marijuana even when a physician recommends its use. Federal officials have stated they will not pursue individual patients, but patients should be aware of the conflict between federal and California law. You should seek the guidance of an experienced Sacramento medical marijuana attorney to ensure that you are in compliance with these complex and evolving legal standards.

California Compassionate Use Act

Medical marijuana laws in California were first enacted through Proposition 215, the California Compassionate Use Act, which took effect in 1996. The law made it legal for patients and their primary caregivers to possess and cultivate whatever amount of marijuana was necessary for patients’ personal medical use, so long as the use was recommended or approved by a physician licensed in California.

There are three types of individuals protected under the California Compassionate Use Act and other medical marijuana laws: patients, primary caregivers, and physicians. Prop. 215 specifies that patients may use marijuana to treat cancer, AIDS, anorexia, spasticity, glaucoma, arthritis, chronic pain, migraine, or any other illness for which marijuana gives relief. To be considered a primary caregiver under the law, an individual must be someone designated as such by a patient, and be someone who has consistently been responsible for the housing, health, and safety of the patient.

Medical care providers who are permitted to recommend or approve marijuana use under the law are physicians, osteopaths, and surgeons who are licensed to practice in California. These types of healthcare providers are protected from federal prosecution for recommending marijuana. However, they may not prescribe or authorize any particular number of plants.

SB 420 Guidelines for Cultivation

California Senate Bill 420, which took effect in 2004, clarified the application of Proposition 215, establishing a California medical marijuana program with guidelines. The SB 420 guidelines established that an individual permitted to possess and cultivate marijuana for medicinal purposes may have twelve immature plants or six mature plants, as well as eight ounces of processed cannabis. Cities and counties in California may enact higher limits, but cannot reduce the amount permitted by the state.

Patients may grow their own plants or cultivate marijuana together in nonprofit collectives or cooperatives. Large collectives, such as those that grow over 100 plants, risk investigation by law enforcement and prosecution, particularly by the federal government. Although the SB 420 parameters have been in place for nearly a decade and voters approved medical marijuana sixteen years ago, police raids and arrests do continue to occur.

In the context of a bona fide caregiver relationship or collective, designated caregivers are generally protected against charges of possession for sale, giving away, transportation, furnishing, sale, and providing a location for distribution of marijuana. However, while patients can’t be prosecuted solely for exceeding SB 420 limits, the California Supreme Court has held that they can be arrested and required to establish that they possess an amount consistent with their medical needs.

Marijuana Dispensaries

California continues to clarify the law regarding medical marijuana dispensaries. The legislature has made clear in more recently enacted laws that they intended to authorize dispensaries as a component of SB 420. However, some jurisdictions continue to raid dispensaries and arrest their principals. This often happens due to confusion over what constitutes a “nonprofit” collective or dispensary. The courts are also still catching up with this significant shift in the treatment of marijuana. Michael Wise has represented several marijuana growers and dispensary owners in California, guiding them through the process of understanding medical marijuana and defending medical marijuana cases.

City of Sacramento

Local rules governing medical marijuana use can vary widely depending on the county or city in which you use this substance. Sacramento is a county and city that has taken a more conservative posture towards medical marijuana relative to some other communities in California. In November 2012, for example, the City of Sacramento banned outdoor cultivation of marijuana in a residential zone or a residential-use building. Under this ordinance you may cultivate indoors by submitting a plan to the city that includes certain features. Because both local and state rules are in constant flux, it is important to consult an attorney who is experienced and knowledgeable about medical marijuana.

If you or a loved one has been arrested or charged with possessing, cultivating, selling or distributing medical marijuana, or has questions regarding the lawful use of medical marijuana, you should consult with an experienced Sacramento medical marijuana attorney as soon as possible. Contact the Wise Law Group at 916.498.9473 or via our online contact form.

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