Legality of Cannabis in California
In a word, “Yes”. Marijuana is legal for medical use in California under Prop 215, as well as for recreational use under Proposition 64.
Medical marijuana is also legal in 28 states throughout the United States and legal for both medical and recreational use in 8 states and 1 federal district (see here). There is some conflict between state and federal laws, as under federal law cannabis is still illegal and listed as a Schedule I drug.
However, federal law allows for states to legalize marijuana for medical or recreational use providing the state sets up a suitable regulation system. Federal laws are unlikely to prosecute individuals using marijuana medically, although large-scale growers and dispensaries with particularly large profit margins may still face prosecutions from federal laws. Those who cultivate marijuana for overseas markets may also face prosecution.
Proposition 215 (the California Compassionate Use Act), which took effect on November 6th 1996, allows for medical marijuana use in California. In 2004, legislative statute SB420 broadened Prop. 215 in order to cover other offenses such as transportation, sale, giving away, furnishing or providing a space for the growing of marijuana between patients and caregivers. This statute also allowed for patients to form cultivation “collectives” or “cooperatives”. Prop. 215 also covers the making and distributing of hashish, concentrates and edibles.
In 2015, the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act (MMRSA or MCRSA) was passed by the California Legislature, allowing for marijuana cultivation and dispensaries at the state level (although local approval is still needed). The law went into effect on January 1st 2016, although it is likely that setting up the necessary agencies, information systems and regulations for licensing will not be fully in place until 2018.
Under MMRSA, qualified patients may cultivate up to 100 square feet for personal medical use. Primary caregivers with five or fewer patients can cultivate up to to 500 square feet (i.e. 100 square feet per patient). Grows over 100 plants carry with it a risk of a five-year mandatory sentence under federal law.
In the meantime, those who wish to grow and supply and/or use marijuana for medical purposes are strongly advised to the state Board of Equalization for a Resale Permit to seek approval from their local government. We would also recommend getting in touch with any other local caregivers, collectives or co-ops for more details and advice on specifics. Facilities that are operating in accordance to state and local laws can continue to do so until their license applications are approved or denied.
There are states that have some reciprocity laws with regard to marijuana, including California, though. This means that those who are expecting to stay in California for quite some time and are from a state where they have a valid medical marijuana card can potentially buy from a dispensary in California. They must still get a recommendation from a California-licensed physician, however, and provide valid identification and medical records.
As for medical practitioners licensed in California, physicians (GPs), osteopaths and surgeons can “approve” or “recommend” marijuana. Doctors may recommend a caregiver to provide marijuana to a patient. A Caregiver is 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.” Caregivers must also provide another service to patients other than just marijuana.
Who Can Sell Marijuana?
You may also get medical marijuana from a licensed collective or dispensary with a doctor’s medical note, although collectives often have a limit on the number of plants they can grow and people they can serve. After all, large scale, non-licensed marijuana cultivation is still illegal for the moment in California, so restrictions apply.
Caregivers are often those caring for friends and family members suffering from Parkinson’s Disease, Alzheimer’s Disease, Epilepsy, severe Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), cancer and lots more conditions besides. A list of qualifying conditions can be found here.
Who Can Use Marijuana?
As of November 9th 2016, it is legal to use marijuana recreationally, thanks to the passing of Prop 64. Named the “Adult Use of Marijuana Act”, which will make it legal for adults aged 21 or over to buy, possess and use up to 28 grams of marijuana and 8 grams of concentrated marijuana (excepting on school grounds, day care centers, youth centers or anywhere where children may be present). It will be legal to use marijuana on private property or businesses with the appropriate licenses. Up to 6 plants can be grown for personal use, as long as they are locked away and out of sight from public view.
The Bureau of Medical Cannabis Regulation will be renamed the Bureau of Marijuana Control by 2018. There will also be two new excise taxes on medical marijuana/cannabis, one applied to the cultivator (with the exception of certain medical strains) and the other on the retailer.
Counties and municipalities will be able to restrict where marijuana businesses can be located (or even ban them outright). Businesses will not be authorized to sell marijuana within 600 feet of any school, daycare center or youth center. Licenses for big businesses will also be restricted in order to prevent “unlawful monopoly power.”
For the moment, though, marijuana is decriminalised (civil infraction charges) and legal for medical use only. So far, the only states that have made marijuana for recreational use legal are Alaska, Colorado and Oregon. Recreational marijuana is also legal in the cities of Portland and South Portland in Maine, as well as the District of Columbia (aka Washington, D.C.) in Maryland.
Now that Prop 64 has passed, will this herald a new beginning for cannabis and marijuana legalization throughout the US? Will the entirety of the West Coast of the US be a world centre for marijuana research, tourism and production? Will Prop 64 have positive or negative effects for medical marijuana users? And what will the tax raised from recreational sales be used for? For discussions and potential answers to all these questions, check out Doctor Frank’s radio show!