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In California, the Medical Marijuana Program ("MMP") was created in order to provide a medical marijuana identification card and registry for qualified patients. The Compassionate Use Act of 1996 and Senate Bill 420 (2003) work in conjunction with one another to allow patients in need of medicinal marijuana legitimate access to the drug. The Compassionate use Act removed state-level criminal penalties on the use, possession and cultivation of marijuana by patients who possess a medical marijuana card. Senate Bill 420 implemented statewide guidelines for patients which limited how much medicinal marijuana may be grown or possessed. Patients and their caregivers may possess no more than 8 oz of dried marijuana and/or 6 mature (or 12 immature) marijuana plants. If larger quantities are recommended by a physician, then SB 420 allows for the recommended increases.Only patients and/or their legal representatives may apply for a medicinal marijuana card. A person applying for California's Medical Marijuana Program must meet certain guidelines and requirements:

  • The patient must have a serious medical condition for which medical marijuana is appropriate, such as: AIDS, cachexia, cancer, chronic pain, glaucoma, migraines, persistent muscle spasms, seizures, severe nausea, or other other medical condition that limits the ability of the patient to conduct major life activities.
  • The patient must be a resident of the county where he or she applies for the MMP and be able to supply proof of residency.
  • The patient must show valid photo identification.
  • The patient must have written documentation in his or her medical records stating that because of a serious medical condition, medical marijuana is appropriate.
  • The patient must complete a MMP application.
  • The county program will take a photo of you to place on your identification card.
  • The patient must pay the application fee, which varies by county of residence.

The medical marijuana card is valid for one year. After that time, the patient must return to his or her physician and begin the process all over from scratch. The only way to renew a medicinal marijuana card is to repeat the entire application process.

Without a medical marijuana card, possession of over 1 oz. of marijuana is a crime under Health & Safety Code §11350 and/or §11377. Possession of less than 1 oz. of marijuana has been decriminalized since 2010, and thus is no longer a misdemeanor. Instead, possession of such a small amount of marijuana is now an infraction only, with no jail time attached. These infractions are punished with a maximum $100 fine, and are treated more like a traffic ticket. Possession of larger amounts of marijuana can be treated as misdemeanors or felonies depending upon the amount of marijuana in possession at the time of the arrest.

If you have any questions about California's Medical Marijuana Program or about criminal marijuana charges, you should speak with an experienced criminal defense lawyer today. The attorneys and counselors at Deering & Valle, LLP are available to answer your questions during a free evaluation. Contact us to schedule your consultation today.

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