Spotlight on a Hot Topic: Medical Marijuana Sales in CA
by Matthew B. Wallin | April 9, 2010
As of April 2010, the enforcement of medical marijuana laws in California is in flux. Courts disagree in their interpretation of California's hazy medical marijuana statutes-starting with Proposition 215, also known as the Compassionate Use Act, which voters approved in 1996 (Cal. Health & Safety Code � 11362.5). Under that law, sick people--in theory, the gravely ill, but in practice anyone who can secure a doctor's signed approval--are exempt from criminal liability for cultivating, possessing, or using marijuana.
Medical Marijuana Program Act
Then, seven years later, the state legislature passed the Medical Marijuana Program Act to clarify how patients can cultivate and distribute medical marijuana (Cal. Health & Safety Code �� 11362.711362.9). Together, these two laws gave birth to an industry worth an estimated $14 billion that today serves an estimate of 400,000 Californians. However, the laws established have provided limited guidance for distinguishing legal marijuana sale and illegal sale marijuana sale. This has put law enforcement and the courts in an awkward bind.
Los Angeles Marijuana Dispensaries
As recently as February 2010, Los Angeles was said to have more marijuana dispensaries than Starbucks coffee shops (Harper's Magazine put the ratio at four to one). Estimates range anywhere from 300 to 1,000. The higher end reflects the number of applications on file with the city; the lower suggests how many have actually opened.
Local Jurisdictions Decide How to Regulate Distributors
Currently, it is up to local jurisdictions to figure out how they can legally regulate distributors. These can be "co-ops" (defined under the attorney general's guidelines as democratically controlled entities organized and registered ... under the Corporations or Food and Agriculture Code); "collectives" (less formal, nonstatutory entities); or "dispensaries" (storefront outlets, which have been operating in California for many years but are not explicitly recognized under state law).
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About the Author
Matthew B. Wallin, Esq. earned his Bachelor of Arts degree from The University of CA, Santa Barbara. He earned his juris doctorate at Chapman University Law School. He works as a criminal defense attorney for Wallin & Klarich in Tustin, CA, specializing in Criminal Defense, Juvenile Criminal Defense and DMV Matters.