Marijuana Legal Trends in california and throughout the country 

Commentary from an Experienced Marijuana Law Firm in Southern California

Marijuana, once a major target of the war on drugs, has seen greater acceptance across California and the rest of the country over the past decade, with an increasing number of states legalizing or decriminalizing possession of the drug. The legal implications and trends related to marijuana law have been interesting to watch, and we can expect more significant changes in the near future. At Shevin Law Group, our Los Angeles attorneys have made a name for themselves as true authorities on this area of the law, serving individuals and entrepreneurs throughout the region since 1993.

Laws Related to Medical Marijuana and Decriminalization

In 1996, California passed Proposition 215, otherwise known as the Compassionate Use Act, the first law regulating the medical uses of marijuana. The act granted citizens the right to obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes, namely to treat symptoms associated with cancer, HIV/AIDS, anorexia, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain and any condition where medical marijuana provides relief.

In 2003, California's state legislature passed SB 420, also known as the Medical Marijuana Program Act, after statewide reports showed that police officers were having a difficult time enforcing some of the provisions of the Compassionate Use Act.  Because law enforcement officers were sometimes unable to determine if a person was a legal medical marijuana user, some patients and caregivers were being unnecessarily arrested. SB 420 accomplished several things:

  • Application and identification rules. The state’s Department of Health Services created a voluntary medical marijuana program to issue prompt identification and assign primary caregivers to legal users to avoid unnecessary arrest and prosecution. Although the Compassionate Use Act offered protection from undue prosecution, SB 420’s voluntary program created an extra layer.
  • Verification protocols and record keeping. The Department of Health Services also developed protocols for confirming the accuracy of application information and protecting confidentiality.
  • Extended caregiver and state rights. SB 420 extended the power of medical marijuana recommendation and approval to osteopaths, and also allowed caregivers to have multiple patients in different counties.
  • Creating laws that protect collectives and cooperatives where qualified patients associate together to cultivate and obtain medical cannabis through retail dispensary locations.

From Federal- to State-based Regulation

In 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice, through the Cole Memo, announced an update to its marijuana enforcement policy. In light of recent ballot initiatives in several states legalizing recreational marijuana use, the agency stated that while under federal law marijuana remains an illegal drug, it would continue to allow state and local authorities to address marijuana activity through their own laws. States must still implement their own strict enforcement systems upholding the Justice Department’s interests to prevent:

  • Distribution to minors
  • Marijuana-related revenue going to gangs or cartels
  • Marijuana transportation into states where it is illegal under state laws
  • Legal marijuana activity from acting as a cover for illegal activity
  • Violence related to marijuana distribution
  • Drugged driving
  • Illegal marijuana growth
  • Marijuana possession or use on federal property

If you have further questions, visit our medical marijuana FAQ page or speak with a marijuana law attorney.

Learn more about marijuana law by speaking with a dedicated lawyer

Do you have questions about marijuana legal trends and how they might impact you? Do not hesitate to call Shevin Law Group at 818.784.2700, or contact us online. We offer free initial consultations, and our office is conveniently accessible from all major freeways in the Los Angeles area. Our office is open from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. on weekdays, but we’re happy to meet with you after hours or on weekends if needed.