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In October of 2015 California voted new regulations into law that govern the distribution of medical marijuana within the state with respect to all users, physicians, and medical marijuana providers. California has allowed the use of medical marijuana since 1996, but the administration of the program suffered through growing pains to the point that new legislation was necessary. Even though medical marijuana is a legal treatment for those needing the drug, there is still a significant illegal aspect of the drug for the general public. Police officers in the state are still directed to investigate use or distribution of marijuana by unauthorized parties who have attempted to use the law as form of cover for possession and distribution. This potential was a serious concern when the substance was authorized because administration of the growing process could allow for over production for the illegal market. The result is that all certified users, issuing doctors, and verified providers are now under a strict code of conduct, and having a medical marijuana identification card does not necessarily make the holder prosecution proof. There could still be situations where charges can be leveled against anyone in the industry that is not authorized, requiring a Los Angeles criminal defense attorney.
Patients in California who want a medical marijuana card must apply with the county in which they live, which have been given authority to issue cards and and oversee programs in their particular jurisdiction. County governments can also set rules for distribution and cultivation within the area, and practically all California counties have passed local ordinances concerning medical marijuana use. The state has imposed limits on how much marijuana an individual can possess, so having more marijuana than allowed can be a legal problem even for a medical marijuana cardholder. Certified patients are also allowed to designate primary caregivers, which then authorizes these individuals to possess the drug even though they cannot legally use it. Home cultivation is also allowed based on the number of plants, but the limits are different based on the stage of plant growth, which means that police officers and state officials could still press charges when the patient is not exactly compliant. The state is still very serious about prosecuting illegal marijuana use and understand well there is a potential for abusing the law.
Doctors and Dispensaries
The new legislation also is directed at doctors and dispensaries within the state, with dispensaries now being licensed just like doctors who provide the medical marijuana card authorization based on medical evidence concerning the patient. Before the new legislation, many dispensaries were being closed for a variety of reasons, with many of the closings being implemented by the local governments. The new legislation establishes state certification for dispensaries, but the programs can also be modified by county governments.
Legal cultivation of marijuana is allowed under the law, but several counties have decided that open cultivation or mass cultivation will not be allowed, instead opting for small grow operations on the property of the patient. The law allows for a medical marijuana patient to grow six adult plants at any particular time, as indoor growing operations can actually be performed year around in a controlled growing environment. Outdoor growth can quickly become problematic, and local governments are taking steps to curb marijuana activity within the community. In addition, even possession of any marijuana is still a violation of federal law, which means that any level of government has the authority to investigate any aspect of use or cultivation authorization. While marijuana is acceptable under state law for many individuals, possession or cultivation of the drug is still a significant legal issue for anyone charged and often legal representation is necessary to maintain possession authority.