California Marijuana Law

Medical Marijuana

  • 8 ounces dried marijuana.
  • 12 plants (6 mature).
  • Doctor permission/qualifying condition.
  • Implied consent to dispensaries and Cooperatives.
  • Non-profit status.

Criminal Penalties


< 1oz: Infraction - $100

> 1 oz: Misdemeanor – Up to 6 months

Intent to Distribute: Felony – Up to 3 years


Felony – 2 to 7 years


Felony 16 months to 3 years

California was the first state to legalize marijuana when it did so in 1994 under Proposition 215: The Compassionate Use Act of 1996. The law requires only a written or oral recommendation of a physician. Yet California has spent nearly 20 years establishing taxpayer-funded bureaucracies and engaging in taxpayer-funded litigation in an effort to thwart the will of the voters.

California Medical Marijuana Law

The Compassionate Use Act permits marijuana use for a wide variety of ailments and illnesses, including AIDS, arthritis, cancer, chronic pain, migraines, muscle spasms, epilepsy, nausea and other chronic medical issues.

In 2004, Senate Bill 420 placed a number of restrictions on patients and caregivers, primarily a limit of eight ounces of dried marijuana as well as a limit on the number of marijuana plants – 12 mature/6 immature. In 2010, the California Supreme Court (Kelly v. California) upheld a lower court ruling, which found the limits unconstitutional because voter-approved propositions can only be amended by voters.

California Medical Marijuana Dispensary Legal Help

The majority of the legal action regarding medical marijuana in California has involved the regulation and operation of dispensaries. Some municipalities have attempted to prevent the establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries, while others have attempted to limit, license and regulate the industry.

Under the Controlled Substances Act, medical marijuana remains a Schedule I narcotic with no recognized medicinal value. Despite indications from the Obama Administration that enforcement of federal marijuana laws would not be a priority in states where medical marijuana had been legalized, federal prosecutors continue to target dispensaries operating legally under state law.

A ruling by the Second District California Court of Appeals, which involved a Long Beach County medical marijuana dispensary, found municipalities could not issue complete bans without running afoul of state law. Several other high-profile cases have been granted review by the California Supreme Court, including Pack v. City of Long Beach, which addresses how localities can regulate distribution, and City of Riverside v. Inland Empire Patient's Health and Wellness, which deals with whether municipalities can permanently ban distribution. In particular, Pack v. City of Long Beach, which held that municipalities could not regulate dispensaries because it would be akin to condoning violations of federal drug laws, had been used by a number of municipalities as excuse to institute an outright ban.

The nonprofit status of medical marijuana dispensaries has created legal challenges. Claiming tax-exempt status on federal paperwork would be akin to admitting to violating federal drug laws. Yet such paperwork is often required by banks and state regulators. Federal authorities have also used the Internal Revenue Service and pressure on banks and landlords to force legally operating medical marijuana dispensaries out of business.

Los Angeles medical marijuana dispensary attorneys continue to win cases on behalf of clients and to assert their rights before state and federal authorities. Those engaged in the legal production and sale of medical marijuana in California should have an experienced law firm on their side.

Cannabis Law Group's Medical Marijuana Legal Blog - California Marijuana
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