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California Medical Marijuana Laws

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California passed Proposition 215 in 1996, which was an initiative to allow for the use, possession and cultivation of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Enacted into law, the legislation was called "The Compassionate Use Act," later amended in 2005 by The Medical Marijuana Program Act.

Unlike some states, California medical marijuana laws do not provide for the legal possession of marijuana for everyone. For now, only those "qualified patients" with a physician's recommendation for medical marijuana, "primary caregivers" are protected under California's medical marijuana laws. In some cases, cooperatives and collectives who cultivate and distribute marijuana for patients and caregivers are also protected. However, for everyone else, the possession and cultivation of marijuana remains illegal.

Who is Protected Under California Medical Marijuana Laws?

"Qualified Patients"

Under Proposition 215 and the Compassionate Use Act, "qualified patients" are those individuals who have obtained approval or recommendation to use marijuana for medicinal purposes by a licensed physician. This includes approval for treatment of cancer, anorexia, chronic pain, glaucoma, AIDS, spasticity, arthritis, migraine headaches, or any other illnesses for which marijuana can offer relief.

"Primary Caregivers"

Under California's medical marijuana laws, a primary caregiver can be a person selected by a qualified patient who has regularly assumed responsibility for the health and safety of the patient. The law provides that the primary caregivers may receive compensation for actual expense. This can include reasonable payment for services provided so that the qualified patient can have access to marijuana, or compensation for out-of-pocket expenses.

It is not yet clear if an organizations can be designated as a primary caregivers. Generally, they are owners, operators, or employees of a health clinic or some other health facility. The primary caregiver must also be 18 years of age or older.

Amounts of Marijuana For Medical Use

The law has not set exact limits for the amounts of marijuana a patient or caregiver can possess or cultivate. However, possessing or growing excessive amounts of marijuana may raise suspicion that its use is intended for more than personal consumption. The standard is generally a reasonable amount of marijuana for personal use when possessing or cultivating marijuana.

After passage of SB 420, the presumptive legal limits for personal use of medical marijuana was set at 6 mature or 12 immature plants, and 8 ounces of processed or dried marijuana. These quantities can be extended, so long as the amount is not sufficient to meet the qualified patient's medical needs, provided the physician approves the increased amount.

Concentrated Cannabis

Concentrated cannabis, also known as "hashish", although not specifically mentioned in the relevant statutes, possession of hashish is covered under California medical marijuana laws.

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