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Medical Marijuana in California: Compassionate Use Act

California was the first state in the U.S. to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes. Passed in 1996 through Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act allowed medical marijuana in certain circumstances, in spite of the general prohibition by the federal government and the refusal of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to approve the drug for medical treatment.

Since the passage of the Compassionate Use Act, though, California has expanded the law to allow for recreational use of marijuana, as well. While the new law broadened the rights of users, it also made things more complex through a sudden proliferation of new regulations.

In many cases, it takes a skilled drug defense and marijuana attorney to help you navigate the complex mazes that these laws create. If you use cannabis regularly and depend on it for its health benefits, contact attorney William S. Kroger online.

California's Compassionate Use Act

Now more than 20 years old, California's Compassionate Use Act dealt exclusively with medical marijuana – it was enacted well before the time when public opinion turned towards legalization of the drug. Even then, the measure only passed narrowly, with barely more than 55 percent of the votes.

The results of Proposition 215, which contained the Compassionate Use Act, added a new statute to the books in California: Health and Safety Code 11362.5. This statute outlined when and how marijuana could be grown and used for medicinally necessary purposes, as well as who could handle the drug and how they could prove that their use was legal when law enforcement asked questions.

Patients and Caregivers

The Compassionate Use Act allows patients who are suffering from a serious medical condition to grow and use medical marijuana if it would help them cope with their issue. Additionally, the Act also allows a patient's “primary caregiver” to help them grow and use it. In either case, the written or oral recommendation or approval of a licensed physician is required.

When it comes to defining what constitutes a “serious medical condition,” though, the Act is much more lenient. The terms of the Compassionate Use Act expressly allow medical marijuana to be used by patients who are suffering from:

  • Cancer
  • Anorexia
  • AIDS
  • Spasticity
  • Glaucoma
  • Arthritis
  • Migraine headaches
  • Chronic pain

However, a crucially important provision in the Act states that “any other illness for which marijuana provides relief” is also an eligible medical condition. This phrase provides broad latitude for people who can benefit from marijuana, but who do not necessarily have a condition that falls within one of the listed problems.

The Medical Marijuana Card

An important aspect of the Compassionate Use Act is the creation of a voluntary identification card that patients and caregivers can use whenever police question them about drugs that are in their possession. This card – which has lots of colloquial names, and can come in the form of a wallet-sized plastic card or a normal-sized piece of paper – can be provided by a licensed physician after a consultation that leads to the physician's determination that you could medically benefit from the drug.

While getting a card is voluntary and not required for California residents who want to exercise their rights under the Compassionate Use Act, most people choose to apply for and carry a card to help when they have to interact with police.

To get a medical marijuana card, patients need to see a doctor who is licensed to recommend marijuana and get their approval for using the drug. Patients need to provide their personal information like their name, address, and photo identification – or just show their California ID card – and sit down with the doctor for a consultation. Over the past few years, many of these consultations have moved into an online format, streamlining the process and making it easier for those who are unable to get to a doctor's office due to their underlying medical condition – patients who have even more of a need for medical marijuana than others. If the physician is convinced that you could benefit from medical marijuana, they will make a recommendation – something that is importantly not a prescription, because federal law still prohibits the official prescription of marijuana – and issue a letter of approval. Importantly, this decision does not need to wait until other medical treatments have been exhausted

The letter of approval that you receive from your physician – regardless of its form – is your medical marijuana card.

Since recreational marijuana became legal at the beginning of 2018, the need for a medical marijuana card has shrunk: The new law makes it perfectly legal to have up to an ounce of dried cannabis or up to eight ounces of concentrated marijuana. This makes it less necessary to constantly have a medical marijuana card on hand, should you get questioned by police.

Having a medical marijuana card, however, does allow users to buy marijuana without being subjected to the steep taxes that often apply to recreational purchases. The card also allows medical marijuana users to possess amounts above what a recreational user is permitted to carry.

Medical Marijuana Attorney for Los Angeles: William S. Kroger

Despite being in existence for over two decades, the enforcement of the Compassionate Use Act in California has still been irregular, confusing, and unfair, likely due to the intensely political nature of the law. As a result, many perfectly legitimate medical marijuana users have found themselves subject to searches and arrests, in spite of their compliance with the law. In many of these cases, the arresting police officer was simply in ignorance of the myriad regulations that make enforcement complicated and chose not to err on the side of caution.

William S. Kroger is a skilled criminal defense attorney who represents Californians who have been accused of drug and marijuana crimes. This includes medical marijuana users who were arrested for doing what they are entitled to do under the Compassionate Use Act.

If you have been arrested and charged in or near Los Angeles for exercising your rights to use medical marijuana, contact attorney William S. Kroger online.

Contact William S. Kroger Today

If you are in need of an experienced criminal defense lawyer in Los Angeles, CA who is proficient in marijuana, drug & criminal law, there’s simply no better attorney than William S. Kroger. Contact Me

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