An Overview of California's Medical Marijuana Laws

Medical cannabis has been a legal treatment option available to Californians ever since the passing of the Compassionate Use Act in 1996. Under this legislation, patients and their designated primary caregivers may legally possess and cultivate marijuana for their personal medical use with the written recommendation of a California-licensed physician. Likewise, patients and caregivers are afforded protection from arrest and criminal penalties for marijuana possession or use if used in compliance with state law.

While no state-registration is required in California, patients may voluntarily apply for a county-issued identification card. Patients may receive a medical marijuana prescription for any of the following qualifying conditions:

  • Anorexia
  • Arthritis
  • Cachexia
  • Cancer
  • Chronic Pain
  • Glaucoma
  • Migraines
  • Persistent Muscle Spasms
  • Severe Nausea
  • Seizures
  • Any other illness for which medical marijuana use has been deemed "appropriate" by a physician

What Types and Amounts of Marijuana Are Permitted?

All parts of the cannabis plant and related cannabis products are permitted, including seeds, buds, leaves, stalks, fibers, resins, edibles, waxes, tinctures, and concentrated cannabis oils. Under state law SB420, patients and caregivers are allowed to have up to 6 mature or 14 immature plants and 8 ounces of dried marijuana, though higher allowances may be approved by a physician or local government. While patients are allowed to possess as much cannabis as necessary to treat their condition, exceeding the limits established in SB420 will often result in an increased likelihood of facing arrest.

With that being said, patients can still be arrested and criminally charged. Under the landmark State Supreme Court decision People vs. Mower, patients have the same rights to marijuana as they do any other type of prescription drug. Patients may have their charges dismissed at a pre-trial hearing if they can prove that the police did not have probable cause that the marijuana was not used for medical purposes.

Where Can Marijuana Be Smoked?

Similar to restrictions on smoking cigarettes, marijuana may not be smoked anywhere within 1000 feet of a school, recreation or youth center, or school bus. Likewise, marijuana may not be used in a moving vehicle, on a boat, or any workplace. Employers may fire any employee who tests positive for marijuana even if they are a registered medical marijuana user.

Can I Be Charged with DUI for Using Marijuana?

Yes. Anyone driving a motor vehicle in California with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher or who is impaired from drugs, including medical marijuana, may be charged with driving under the influence (DUI). Marijuana DUI charges are punished just like any other DUI charge, though they can be more difficult to prove since there is still not standardized method of measuring marijuana intoxication.

At the Law Office of Frances Prizzia, our Orange County criminal defense lawyers have been fighting for the rights of medical marijuana patients and other accused individuals for more than a decade, having earned an inclusion on the National Trial Lawyers: Top 100 list for our unparalleled advocacy. If you have been charged with any sort of marijuana-related crime, our team of advocates can provide the aggressive representation you need to maximize your chances of securing a favorable outcome for your situation.

Call (888) 392-8114 today to discuss your defense options in detail.