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Why Are California Medical Marijuana Laws So Hazy? Part 1

Today we launch the first blog in a series of blogs outlining California’s medical marijuana initiatives and how they contradict federal law. The series was put together by Matthew Wallin, one of the expert drug crimes attorneys at Wallin & Klarich. Today we provide a brief overview of the two California voter approved acts that have decriminalized medical marijuna. Tomorrow, we will begin taking a closer look at some of the landmark cases that have and will shape medical marijuana laws in California moving forward.

Part 1

California’s medical marijuana laws – the voter approved Compassionate Use Act (CUA) of 1996 and the Legislature’s Medical Marijuana Program Act (MMPA) of 2003 – present cities and counties with serious legal dilemmas with respect to whether and how to apply appropriate zoning and business license regulations to the distribution of medical marijuana.

Under the federal Controlled Substances Act, all marijuana production, distribution, and consumption is illegal. However, under the Compassionate Use Act (CUA) of 1996 and the Medical Marijuana Program Act (MMPA) of 2003, qualified patients and their primary caregivers are immune from state criminal sanctions for certain activities related to medical marijuana. As set forth in California Health and Safety Code Section 11362.775 – these activities include the collective and cooperative cultivation of medical marijuana. Essentially, state law decriminalizes medical marijuana collectives and cooperatives that cultivate their own medical marijuana, while federal law prohibits such activities altogether.

Medical marijuana advocates rely on the state criminal immunities in California Health and Safety Code Section 11362.775 as legal authority for medical marijuana collectives, cooperatives, and dispensaries to operate from storefront locations. For local governments, such storefront operations present difficult questions that go to the heart of local land use authority, a power that is reserved in the state constitution to counties and cities.

The federal government considers all marijuana use, cultivation, and distribution to be illegal, and has already closed several high-profile medical marijuana dispensaries throughout California. Despite the federal government’s enforcement policy, it is expected that the growing demand for medical marijuana will require local governments to continue to address its land use implications.

The area of California medical marijuana law is highly complex. Marijuana crimes may trigger punishments for violation of both federal and state drug laws. If you have been accused or arrested for a drug-related offense in California it is important that you speak to one of our highly experienced Orange County criminal defense attorneys. Wallin & Klarich has over 30 years of experience in representing individuals charged with drug-related offenses throughout Southern California. Call Wallin & Klarich at (888) 749-0034 or visit our website at www.wklaw.com. We will be there when you call.

About Wallin & Klarich

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Wallin & Klarich was established in 1981. Over the past 32 years, our law firm has helped tens of thousands of families in their time of legal need. Regardless of whether our clients faced criminal or DUI charges, the loss of their driving privilege, or wanted to clean up their criminal record, we have been there to help them.