California Laws:

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Basic Marijuana Law (California)

This is a summary and in no way supersedes doing your own research. The links above provide a great start to your learning. Please visit Norml.org to begin.

 


WHO IS PROTECTED BY PROPOSITION 215?

California patients with a physician’s recommendation and their primary caregivers are protected under Proposition 215. A primary caregiver is legally defined as, “The individual designated by the person exempted under this act who has consistently assumed responsibility for the housing, health, or safety of that person.” Examples of primary caregivers would be a spouse or partner, professional caregiver, or nurse. Caregivers may have more than one patient.

HOW IS PROP 215 DIFFERENT FROM SB 420?

SB 420 builds on the legislation defined in Prop 215 and restricts individual caregivers to no more than one patient outside their own “city or county.”

WHEN DID PROP 215 TAKE EFFECT?

PROP 215, the California Compassionate Use Act, was enacted by the voters and took effect on Nov. 6, 1996 as California Health & Safety Code 11362.5. The law removes criminal penalties for personal use possession and cultivation of marijuana for medical purposes by patients (and their designated “primary caregivers”) who have a physician’s recommendation.

WHEN DID SB 420 TAKE EFFECT?

SB420, a legislative statute, went into effect on January 1, 2004 as California H&SC 11362.7-.83.

SB 420 broadens Prop. 215 in the following ways:

  • Includes transportation and other offenses in certain circumstances
  • Allows patients to “collectively or cooperatively” cultivate for medical purposes
  • Allows probationers, parolees, and prisoners to apply for permission to use medical marijuana
  • Sets limits on where marijuana may be smoked
IS MEDCIAL CANNABIS LEGAL?

Medical cannabis is legal under state and local law in California, but it is illegal under federal law. Voters in California legalized the use, cultivation, and possession of cannabis for those with a doctor’s recommendation when they adopted Proposition 215 in 1996. In 2003, the California State Assembly adopted Senate Bill 420 in order to implement and clarify Proposition 215 – effectively expanding its scope. Unfortunately, medical cannabis remains illegal under federal law, and as such, you should know that there can be serious legal consequences for breaking federal law.

HOW MUCH MEDICAL MARIJUANA CAN A PATIENT POSSESS AND CULTIVATE ACCORDING TO CALIFORNIA LAW?

SB420 establishes a baseline statewide limit per patient of 6 mature or 12 immature plants, plus 1/2 pound (8 oz.) processed cannabis. Patients can be exempted from these limits if their physician specifically states that they need more. In addition, individual cities and counties are allowed to enact higher, but not lower, limits than the state standard. For example, Sonoma County allows patients up to three pounds plus 99 plants in 100 square feet of growing area.

The legality of the limits in SB 420 have been disputed. Prior to SB 420, Prop 215 allowed patients whatever amount of marijuana they need for their medical purposes. Patients were not infrequently acquitted for personal use gardens of 100 plants or more. Some Prop. 215 advocates maintain that SB 420 cannot constitutionally limit the amount patients may legally have for personal use. This issue remains to be settled in the courts. To be safe, anyone exceeding the limits is advised to get a physician’s exemption.

CAN I GO TO JAIL FOR USING MEDICAL MARIJUANA PRESCRIBED TO ME BY A PHYSICIAN?

Medical marijuana is illegal under federal law, and as such, you can face legal repercussions for using medicinal cannabis with a doctor’s recommendation.

While state laws in California offer some protection to medical marijuana patients, there is never any guarantee.  As a medical marijuana patient it is in your best interest to familiarize yourself regarding current marijuana legislation, and act within the limitations set forth by California law at all times.

WHAT ARE THE SUPREME COURT’S VIEWS ON CALIFORNIA’S MEDICAL MARIJUANA LAWS?

The Supreme Court has upheld the ruling that the federal government has the ability to prosecute medical marijuana patients, cannabis cultivators and providers.

But, it is important to point out – federal law and state law are two completely different entities. Federal law does not automatically trump laws set out by the individual states. Just because the Supreme Court has ruled that the use of medical marijuana is illegal, it does not make California’s state laws null and void. In fact, CA state laws regarding the use of medicinal cannabis remain in effect.