HOW MUCH CAN I POSSESS OR GROW?
Under Prop. 215, patients are entitled to whatever amount of marijuana is necessary for their personal medical use. However, patients are likely to be arrested if they exceed the SB 420 guidelines. SB420 sets a baseline statewide guideline of 6 mature or 12 immature plants, and 1/2 pound (8 oz.) processed cannabis per patient. Individual cities and counties are allowed to enact higher, but not lower, limits than the state standard. See local limits. Patients can be exempted from the limits if their physician specifically states that they need more for their own personal use; but beware of physicians offering "cultivation" licenses for large amounts.
In a state Supreme Court ruling, People v. Kelly (2010), the court held that patients can NOT be prosecuted simply for exceeding the SB 420 limits; however, they can be arrested and forced to defend themselves as having had an amount consistent with their personal medical needs. Patients can be exempted from the limits if their physician specifically states that they need more; but beware of physicians who charge extra for “cultivation” licenses for large amounts. The validity of recommendations for specific plant numbers is doubtful.
CAN I STILL BE ARRESTED OR RAIDED?
Yes, unfortunately. Many legal patients have been raided or arrested for having dubious recommendations, for growing amounts that police deem excessive, on account of neighbors’ complaints, etc. Once patients have been charged, it is up to the courts to pass judgment on their medical claim.
A landmark State Supreme Court decision, People vs. Mower, holds that patients have the same right to marijuana as to any legally prescribed drug. Under Mower, patients who have been arrested can request dismissal of charges at a pre-trial hearing. If the defendant convinces the court that the prosecution hasn’t established probable cause that it wasn’t for medical purposes, criminal charges are dismissed. If not, the patient goes on to trial, where the prosecution must prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that the defendant is guilty. Those who have had their charges dropped may file to have their property returned and claim damages.
In some cases, police raid patients and take their medicine without filing criminal charges. In order to reclaim their medicine, patients must then file a court suit on their own. For legal assistance in filing suit for lost medicine, contact Americans for Safe Access).
CAN I BE CHARGED OR PENALIZED FEDERALLY?
Under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act, possession of any marijuana is a misdemeanor and cultivation is a felony. A Supreme Court ruling, Gonzalez v Raich (June 2005), rejected a constitutional challenge by two patients who argued that their personal medical use cultivation should be exempt from federal law because it did not affect interstate commerce. Despite this, federal officials have stated that they will not go after individual patients.
Medical marijuana patients are not protected while on federal park land or forest land in California. CalNORML has received reports of campers and those driving through federal land who are searched, charged with federal possession statutes, and had their medicine confiscated. A California medical recommendation is not a defense in federal court to these charges.
The US Dept of Housing and Urban Development allows local housing authorities to determine their own policies regarding medical marijuana use in HUD housing. Many don’t allow it. In rare cases, users may lose food stamps or other federal benefits if they’re discovered.
SHOULD I GET A STATE I.D. CARD?
Patients are not required to get an ID card to enjoy the protection of Prop. 215, but a state card can provide an extra measure of protection against arrest. Patients and caregivers can obtain state ID cards through the health departments of the county where they live (except Sutter and Colusa). The state ID card system has safeguards to protect patient privacy. Police and employers cannot track down patients through the registry.
The Patients’ ID Center in Oakland (www.patientidcenter.org) offers ID cards for all California residents that are honored by many collectives and police. In addition, many doctors now offer ID cards that can be verified.
WHERE CAN MARIJUANA BE SMOKED?
SB420 bars marijuana smoking in no smoking zones, within 1000 feet of a school or youth center except in private residences; on school buses, in a motor vehicle that is being operated, or while operating a boat. Patients are advised to be discreet or consume oral preparations in public.
WHERE CAN I GROW MEDICINE?
Although Prop. 215 allows patients to grow their own medicine, landlords are not legally obliged to allow it. Many cities and counties have passed zoning ordinances that restrict where patients can grow, in some cases outlawing outdoor cultivation altogether. See local policies.
CAN I SELL MY EXCESS MEDICINE?
In general sales of marijuana are NOT permitted under Prop 215. However, SB 420 authorizes legal caregivers and collective/cooperative members to charge for their expenses in growing for others on a “non-profit” basis. Hostile police sometimes misinterpret this to take any monetary proceeds as evidence of felony sales, regardless of whether the grower actually made a profit. Growers who provide for others must either be members of a collective or be bona fide “primary caregivers.”
CAN PATIENTS BE DRUG TESTED AT WORK?
The California Supreme Court has ruled that employers have a right to drug test and fire patients who test positive for marijuana, regardless of their medical use (Ross v RagingWire, 2008). Some employers will excuse patients if they present a valid 215 recommendation. Others won’t. Marijuana use is never permitted in jobs with federal drug testing regulations, such as the transportation industry.
CAN I TAKE MY MEDICAL MARIJUANA ON A PLANE?
Some airports, like Los Angeles and Oakland, are respectful of patients’ rights, but others like Burbank aren’t. If TSA security screeners find marijuana in your luggage, the standard procedure is to turn you over to local law enforcement, who follow state, not federal, law. To avoid hassles, patients are strongly advised NOT to declare their medicine to TSA, but to carry it discreetly like other medicines along with proof of their 215 eligibility.
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
CALIFORNIA PROP 215
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 makes it legal for patients and their designated primary caregivers to possess and cultivate marijuana for thier personal medical use given the recommendation or approval of a California-licensed physician.