California Issues Medical Marijuana Guidelines
California Attorney General Edmund G. Brown Jr. today released guidelines that, for the first time since California’s Proposition 215 was passed in 1996, clarify the state’s laws governing medical marijuana and provide clear guidelines for patients and law enforcement to ensure that medical marijuana is not diverted to illicit markets.
“California voters approved an initiative legalizing medical marijuana, not street drugs. Marijuana intended for medicinal use should not be sold to non-patients or on illicit markets,” Attorney General Brown said. “These guidelines will help law enforcement agencies perform their duties in accordance with California law and help patients understand their rights under Proposition 215.”
This landmark document marks the first attempt by a state agency to define the types of organizations that are legally permitted to dispense marijuana. Brown’s guidelines affirm the legality of medical marijuana collectives and cooperatives, but make clear that such entities cannot be operated for profit, may not purchase marijuana from unlawful sources and must have a defined organizational structure that includes detailed records proving that users are legitimate patients.
“We welcome the Attorney General’s leadership and expect that compliance with these guidelines will result in fewer unnecessary arrests, citations and seizures of medicine from qualified patients and their primary caregivers,” said Americans for Safe Access Attorney Joe Elford. “No one benefits from confusion over the law. These guidelines will help patients and law enforcement better understand California’s medical marijuana laws.”
In 1996, California voters approved Proposition 215, an initiative that exempted patients and their primary caregivers from criminal liability under state law for the possession and cultivation of marijuana. In addition, The Medical Marijuana Program Act (MMA), enacted by the Legislature in 2004, intended to further clarify lawful medical marijuana practices by establishing a voluntary statewide identification card system, specific limits on the amount of medical marijuana each cardholder could possess, and rules for the cultivation of medical marijuana by collectives and cooperatives. According to Americans for Safe Access, California has more than 200,000 doctor-qualified medial cannabis users.
Several law enforcement agencies have requested that the Attorney General issue guidelines regarding the lawful possession, sale and cultivation of marijuana for medicinal purposes. These law enforcement agencies believe that individuals and cartels, under the cover of Proposition 215, have expanded illegal cultivation and sales of marijuana, which has led to an increase in drug-related violent crime. Most researchers agree that the U.S. marijuana crop has seen a sharp increase in the past decade. A report, “Marijuana Production in the United States” by drug-policy researcher Jon Gettman, estimated that in 2006, more than 21 million pot plants were grown in California at a street value of up to $14 billion.
Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer, President of the California Police Chiefs Association, praised Brown for establishing these guidelines. "Since Proposition 215 was passed, the laws surrounding the use, possession and distribution of medical marijuana became confusing at best. These newly established guidelines are an essential tool for law enforcement and provide the parameters needed for consistent statewide regulation and enforcement."
The guidelines encourage patients to participate in the California Department of Public Health’s registration program to obtain a medical marijuana identification card. The identification card protects the holder from arrest for marijuana possession and is one of the best ways to ensure the non-diversion of medical marijuana. Collectives and cooperatives are advised to keep files on their patients with documented verification of their qualified status.
A copy of the Guidelines is attached at MedicalMarijuanaGuidelines.pdf .