Marijuana In California

Marijuana In California“What,” you might ask, “is Marijuana?” “What,” we would reply, “are you smokin’?” Marijuana is a prepared product of the cannabis plant that is consumed by smoking, vaporizing or eating and is used for psychoactive purposes (to alter consciousness, mood, perception, understanding and behavior) and/or medicinal purposes (to counteract nausea and vomiting, stimulate appetite, relieve pain and suppress muscle spasms). Used by numerous cultures for thousands of years, cannabis’ cultivation, transportation, possession and sale were criminalized by a series of laws beginning in the early 20th Century. Nevertheless, marijuana’s use continued throughout the world and commencing in the late 20th Century, several states began to decriminalize and loosen restrictions on the product. These gentler, kinder laws directly conflicted with federal law, which continued to criminalize marijuana.

California is one of approximately 20 states that are gradually decriminalizing marijuana. Commencing in late 1996, California’s “Compassionate Use Act” allowed patients and primary caregivers to cultivate and possess marijuana for personal medical use, so long as it was specifically approved or recommended by a physician licensed to practice medicine in California. “Patients” can include individuals suffering from insomnia, cancer, post-traumatic stress disorder, anorexia, depression, AIDS, substance abuse, glaucoma, chronic pain, migraines, arthritis and literally hundreds of other maladies. “Caregivers” include individuals who are designated by patients, who “consistently assumed responsibility for the housing, health, or safety” of the patient, and who provide one or more services in addition to providing marijuana.
“Physicians” include medical doctors, osteopaths and surgeons but not such occupations as herbal therapists or chiropractors.

That Compassionate Care Act was expanded effective January 1, 2004 to: allow patients to form collectives or cooperatives for medical cultivation; establish California’s voluntary ID card system to identify persons benefitting from the relaxed laws; establish guidelines on the amount of medical marijuana that can be cultivated and possessed by patients. Here, “collectives” or “cooperatives” are groups of people organized to cultivate medical marijuana, usually scaling their crops to the number of members. Thousands of collectives/cooperatives reportedly exist in California to grow, possess, transport, sell, give away or otherwise furnish marijuana. The voluntary ID card system is just that: voluntary; patients need only the physician’s specific approval or recommendation; however, these ID cards certainly assist when dealing with the police, for example. The guidelines on the amount of marijuana currently allow patients/caregivers to possess 6 mature or 12 immature plants plus 8 ounces of dried, processed cannabis. California counties and cities can allow even higher (but not lower) amounts. Furthermore, if a physician states that a patient requires even more cannabis, the patient can be exempted from the state, county or city limits.

In addition to the Compassionate Care Act and its 2004 expansion, there is currently a voter initiative afoot in California to: decriminalize the cultivation, possession, use and sale of marijuana and hemp; legalize the commercial sale and sales taxation of marijuana; set standards to determine driver impairment by use of marijuana. Entitled “California Cannabis Hemp Initiative 2014,” the measure will be on the November 2014 ballot, provided its supporters collect more than 500,000 signatures by February 24, 2014 to place it on the November ballot. While past efforts to legalize the commercial sale and taxation of marijuana in California have failed, advocates are encouraged by recent developments in the U. S. Department of Justice.

Life in these United States is controlled by federal law as well as state law. State measures to decriminalize marijuana have traditionally conflicted with federal law that steadfastly criminalized marijuana. Consequently, perfectly legal use according to state law exposed people to criminal prosecution on the federal level. Fortunately, in August 2013, the U. S. Justice Department stated that it will ease up on enforcement in states allowing marijuana use, provided those states maintain “strict regulatory schemes” regarding the cultivation, use, etc. of marijuana. Essentially, the Justice Department will shift its concentration to: preventing the use of marijuana by children; preventing the use of supposed marijuana operations as covers for illegal drug sales; preventing marijuana sale revenues from going to criminal enterprises; preventing gun use and violence in connection with the cultivation and sale of marijuana; protecting public health. This shift by the Department of Justice shows a nationwide evolution in law enforcement attitudes about marijuana.


DO ensure that your caregiver provides you with more than just marijuana if he/she wishes to be protected by California’s current laws;

DO be sure to obtain a licensed physician’s specific approval or recommendation if you require medical marijuana;

DO obtain a medical marijuana ID card to avoid problems with law enforcement and/or obtaining medical marijuana;

DO consult your licensed physician about medical marijuana collectives/cooperatives in your area;

DO limit the amount of medical marijuana you possess to 6 mature or 12 immature plants plus 8 ounces of processed cannabis, OR according to your city/county limits;

DO obtain an exemption through your physician if you require more cannabis than is allowed through state/county/city standards;

DO seek out and sign the “California Cannabis Hemp Initiative 2014” by February 24, 2014, if you support the commercial sale and taxation of marijuana in California;

DO understand that despite the U. S. Department of Justice’s recent easing up on the use of marijuana, the DOJ will still prosecute to:
a. prevent the use of marijuana by children;
b. prevent the use of supposed marijuana operations as covers for illegal drug sales;
c. prevent marijuana sale revenues from going to criminal enterprises;
d. prevent gun use and violence in connection with the cultivation and sale of marijuana;
e. protect public health.

By Kathy Catanzarite

[Note from This article is to be used as an educational guide only and should not be interpreted as a legal consultation. Readers of this article are advised to seek an attorney if a legal consultation is needed. Laws may vary by state and are subject to change, thus the accuracy of this information cannot be guaranteed. Readers act on this information solely at their own risk. Neither, or any of its affiliates, shall have any liability stemming from this article.]