Welcome to the Medical Cannabis Law Blog, a service of the Law Offices of Geoffrey R. Rawlings. We are dedicated to the legal representation of qualified medical cannabis patients and their cooperatives in California, to educate, counsel and defend them.

Medical Cannabis, or if you prefer, Medical Marijuana was legalized under California state law by the voter initiative process in 1996. Proposition 215 was passed by California voters November 5, 1996. This initiative was codified in the California Health & Safety Code at Section 11362.5 and is known as the Compassionate Use Act of 1996. Because federal law still regards possession or use of marijuana for any purpose as illegal, significant tension exists between California and federal law.

The stated purposes of the Compassionate Use Act include, in part:

"(A) To ensure that seriously ill Californians have the right to obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes where the medical use is deemed appropriate and has been recommended by a physician who has determined that the person's health would benefit from the use of marijuana in the treatment of cancer, anorexia, AIDS, chronic pain, spasticity, glaucoma, arthritis, migraine, or any other illness for which marijuana provides relief; and

(B) To ensure that patients and their primary caregivers who obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes upon the recommendation of a physician are not subject to criminal prosecution or sanction." (Cal. Health & Safety Code §11362.5(b)(1)(A)-(B))

In order to bring consistency to the Code the Compassionate Use Act further provides that “Section 11357, relating to the possession of marijuana, and Section 11358, relating to the cultivation of marijuana, shall not apply to a patient, or to a patient's primary caregiver, who possesses or cultivates marijuana for the personal medical purposes of the patient upon the written or oral recommendation or approval of a physician.” ((Cal. Health & Safety Code §11362.5(d))

Because the Compassionate Use Act is quite brief and does not specifically provide guidelines for possession, cultivation, identification of medical marijuana patients or other details of implementation, the California legislature enacted the Medical Marijuana Program Act (MMP) (S.B. 420) on January 1, 2004. The MMP is codified at Health & Safety Code §§11362.7-11362.83. The MMP provides for the creation of a system of statewide identification cards for qualified medical marijuana patients. Participation by patients in the system of medical marijuana identification cards is voluntary, but the administration of the program by California counties is mandatory. Significantly, the MMP also provides guidelines for and establishes certain rights for collective organizations and cooperatives to cultivate marijuana on behalf of qualified patient members of such cooperatives.

Much of the focus of our practice is to assist qualified patients to organize non-profit California Consumer Cooperative Corporations in order to better comply with the MMP and to provide the legitimate legal framework of a non-profit corporate entity for medical marijuana cultivation and distribution to qualified patient members.

It is imperative that our clients and prospective clients recognize and understand that all uses of marijuana in California violate the Federal Controlled Substances Act (21 U.S.C. Sec. 801 et seq.). Although California law recognizes specific, qualified rights of patients with valid physician recommendations to cultivate, possess, use, and transport medical marijuana, this merely means that such uses will not be prosecuted by California authorities provided they comply with state law. Nothing contained in this website should be construed to mean that activities related to medical marijuana can not lead to criminal prosecution under federal law even though the same activities may comply with California law.

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