The State of California
Current Law Pertaining to Medical Marijuana
The State of California was one of the first states to legalize medical marijuana. Proposition 215, a ballot initiative, passed with a 56% affirmative vote on November 5, 1996 and was modified by S.B. 420, which became effective on January 1, 2004. Since then, anyone registered as a patient requiring cannabis treatment for any medical condition is exempt from any prosecution for possession of up to 8 ounces, 6 mature plants and 12 immature plants, provided they are carrying a state-issued medical marijuana license.
At that time, possession offenses were also decriminalized and state sentences were vacated. Possession of less than one ounce of marijuana is considered a misdemeanor with a fine of $100. While illegal unlicensed possession of more than one ounce for personal use, illegal possession with intent to distribute and sales to minors remain felonies, penalties have been drastically reduced and in most cases receive less than the maximum of five years and fines of up to $500. The state makes exceptions for sale of chemically altered marijuana like hashish, which violations can carry a sentence of up to 7 years and $50,000 fines.
In recent years, ballot measures to legalize all forms of cannabis for personal (recreational) use have failed to pass in general elections. Another ballot measure is pending for the 2016 election and, if passed, would make California the fifth state to legalize recreational use for adults 21 and over.
The State of California does not recognize out-of-state I.D. cards, but will not prosecute anyone receiving cannabis treatment under recommendation by a medical practitioner (affirmative defense).
Current Law Pertaining to Hemp:
Cultivation of Hemp, a variety of sativa L. cannabis with less than 1% of tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) has been authorized by the state for medical purposes, industry and educational research.
Pending Ballot Measure for 2016 General Elections
The California Marijuana Control, Legalization and Revenue Initiative initiated state statutes proposed for the California ballot on November 8, 2016. It is currently awaiting requisite number of signatures from the general public before confirmation that it will be posed to voters in the general election.
There are five versions of the initiative with differences in tax rates and local control options, one of which previously failed. If passed, the measure would:
- Legalize marijuana use, growth, cultivation, possession, transportation, storage, or sale
- Create a commission to regulate and license marijuana industry
- Apply general retail sales taxes to marijuana, unless medical or dietary exemptions apply
- Permit taxes on nonmedical marijuana sales, up to 10% of retail price.
- Prohibit discrimination against marijuana users or businesses.
- Prohibit Legislature from enacting marijuana laws
- Impose personal liability on law enforcement for wrongful marijuana destruction or assisting with certain marijuana investigations.
- Require voter approval to zone beyond set limits.
California Chapter of NORML: http://norml.org/chapters/ca
There are currently 8 chapters of NORML located in Bakersfield, San Francisco, High Sierra, Monterey, Sacramento, Los Angeles, Orange County and Sand Diego.
Updates about the 2016 Ballot Initiative: BallotPedia.com
California compassionate care advocacy information about legal rights: United Patients Group
Medical Cannabis Resource Center: Mercy Centers
Access to Medical Marijuana
According to the Marijuana Policy Project, medical marijuana can be accessed through nonprofit collectives and cooperatives as opposed to “dispensaries” that are allowed in other states. There is no state licensing or registration.
However, in April 2015, the state closed more than 500 retail locations in Los Angeles County and capped the number of locations allowed in the area to 130. Later in 2015, the state adopted a new regulatory system, which will be phased in over the next several years and is expected to go into effect in 2018. The new system will replace the collective/ cooperative model with a licensing system, including dispensaries and several other business categories.
News and Articles Related to California Marijuana Laws:
Reuters – Los Angeles Closes 500 Diespensaries but Hundreds Remain
iNewSource.org – California Cities Create Their Own Rules for Medical Marijuana
Sacramento Bee – With State Deadline Looming, Cities and Counties Rush to Ban Pot Cultivation
My California Cannabis – Court: Fresno County Can’t Criminalize Cannabis Growers