A doctor’s recommendation allowing you to lawfully possess and grow marijuana in California will not always protect you from being arrested and criminally charged for a marijuana related crime. Two laws define the parameters of legal possession and cultivation of medically indicated marijuana in California: the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 (“CUA”) and the 2003 Medical Marijuana Program Act (“MMPA”).
The CUA made it legal for patients and their designated caregivers to possess and cultivate marijuana for the personal medical purposes of the patient upon the recommendation or approval of a physician. It provides an affirmative defense to prosecution for the crimes of unauthorized marijuana possession and cultivation; however, it does NOT prevent you from being arrested for those crimes.
The MMPA was enacted by the legislature “to clarify the scope of the application of the CUA and facilitate the prompt identification of qualified patients and their designated primary caregivers in order to avoid unnecessary arrest and prosecution of those individuals and provide needed guidance to law enforcement.” It provided for the creation of “collectives” or “cooperatives” for medical marijuana sales, and established guidelines for personal use: 6 mature or 12 immature plants, and ½ pound (8 oz.) processed cannabis per patient. Local counties and cities can enact guidelines exceeding these. The California Supreme Court has ruled that these quantities are guidelines only. The only legal limit on the amount of marijuana someone may possess is that it must be reasonably related to the patient’s medical needs. With respect to collectives and cooperatives this amount can be aggregated where there are multiple people involved in a collective or cooperative.
The MMPA also established a voluntary state ID card system run through county health departments. No patient or designated caregiver carrying a valid ID card shall be subject to arrest for “possession, transportation, delivery or cultivation of medical marijuana”; however, law enforcement may arrest a qualified patient where they have probable cause, based on all of the surrounding circumstances, the that marijuana was not for a patient’s personal medical purposes. These circumstances will include the quantity possessed and the form and manner in which it is possessed.
- If you are possessing or cultivating an amount which exceeds the MMPA or your local guidelines, it is more likely that you will be arrested.
- If you have indicia of sales – a scale or packaging material – it is more likely that you will be arrested.
- It is illegal to use marijuana anywhere within 1000 feet of a school or youth or recreation center, or in a moving car or boat.
- Anyone driving under the influence of marijuana whose driving is impaired can be charged with a DUI.
- Finally, Federal law does not permit marijuana usage and it is illegal to possess or cultivate it on federal park or forest land.
California law for medical marijuana can be complicated and subject to different interpretations. If you are arrested for a marijuana related crime, it is important to obtain good legal advice and representation immediately! Call Attorney Robbi Cook for a free consultation at 510-208-5051.