Medical Marijuana

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Medical marijuana has been a controversial topic in California, and across the country, for quite some time. The subject of legalizing marijuana has led to discussions about decriminalization, regulation, and taxation. California voters have indicated that they strongly support the existence of medical marijuana dispensaries and would like the federal government to stop targeting these businesses.

California is home to the largest medical marijuana industry in the country. Voters oppose the crackdowns on businesses who are selling marijuana intended for medicinal use. In fact, a recent California Field Poll showed voters favoring legalization of marijuana beyond medical use with regulations similar to alcohol.

Many believe that regulation and taxation of marijuana will provide much needed revenue for the state and could substantially weaken drug cartels which are smuggling marijuana across the border.

Medical Marijuana Program

California Senate Bill 420, also known as the Medical Marijuana Program Act, was passed in 2003. The bill clarified California Proposition 215, which is commonly referred to as the Compassionate Use Act, and established the medical marijuana program in California. The California Department of Public Health has detailed California’s Medical Marijuana Program on their website. At its core, the program was:

“established to provide a voluntary medical marijuana identification card issuance and registry program for qualified patients and their caregivers”

The website also covers a variety of frequently asked questions about the medical marijuana program where visitors can further educate themselves on the subject.

Federal Involvement

Despite poll results showing strong support for medical marijuana, the state Supreme Court is still deliberating on whether or not California cities and counties can ban marijuana dispensaries. The primary question is whether or not municipalities, under state law, can ban such facilities in their jurisdiction.

Poll results have shown that California voters take issue with the federal government prosecuting medical marijuana businesses. Federal involvement has included:

  • Threatening seizure of property
  • Raiding medical marijuana businesses
  • Criminal charges

Prosecutors claim that people are violating state and federal laws in an effort to profit off of the lucrative medical marijuana business. Despite this claim, polls in February 2013 indicate that 68 percent of democrats, 55 percent of Republicans, and 78 percent of independents said they oppose the federal government’s crackdowns of medical marijuana businesses. These results seem to indicate that crackdowns have not changed public opinion in a positive way.

California Supreme Court on Medical Marijuana

The California Supreme Court has held that as a result of the enactment of section 11362.5 subdivision (d), the possession and cultivation of marijuana is no more criminal—so long as its conditions are satisfied—than the possession and acquisition of any prescription drug with a physician’s prescription.  (People v. Brooks, supra, 182 Cal.App.4th at p. 1351; citing People v. Mower (2002) 28 Cal.4th 457, 482.) 

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