California Medical Marijuana Rights Strengthened Under SB 439

California senators are trying to solidify the rights of both marijuana dispensaries and patients who are acting legally under state law.
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Our Los Angeles marijuana lawyers understand that Senate Bill 439 recently passed in the state senate, moving now to the Assembly and, hopefully, on to the governor.

SB 439 was initially proposed by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) as a way to establish some clear guidelines for laws that have been riddled with ambiguity since 1996, when California voters first affirmed marijuana use for medicinal purposes.

The measure, introduced in February, would amend Section 11362.765 of the Health and Safety Code.

Under the existing law, which is the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, a patient and his or her primary caregiver may possess or grow the drug for personal medical purposes of the patient with the express permission of a medical doctor. In doing so, the patient and/or caregiver are exempt from being arrested for growing or possessing the drug.

Otherwise, the law holds that it’s a crime for someone to sell marijuana or to plant, grow, dry process, harvest, furnish, transport, administer, give away or offer to do any of this. What SB 439 does is exempt collectives and cooperatives from being held criminally liable when all they are doing is following the law. The bill would exempt those entities and persons from criminal punishment solely on the basis of the fact that they receive compensation for actual expenses incurred in carrying out these activities when they are in compliance with legal guidelines.

Those guidelines include compliance with the security and reporting standards, as drafted by the Attorney General. Steinberg, in speaking to his fellow senators about the issue, underscored that the end goal was to ensure that patients who need medical marijuana would have access to it. Additionally, Steinberg said, drug cartels and criminals could potentially benefit from the lack of regulation.

What this measure would not do is interfere with the authority of counties and cities to regulate the operation of local dispensaries. Such action was recently taken by the City of Los Angeles, which enacted a restrictive measure that will effectively reduce the number of dispensaries in the city from several hundred down to about 135.

The right of municipalities to enact such restrictive measures against dispensaries was recently underscored by a state supreme court ruling.

Our Los Angeles marijuana lawyers know that one alternative that would allow L.A. dispensaries to remain operational would be to have them classify as collectives. With the passage of SB 439, these facilities would see added protections under state law.

The vote was passed in the Senate 22-12, divided mostly along party lines, with Republicans opposing.

State legislators have yet to address the problem of storefront distribution. This bill would allow sellers of marijuana to be organized the way any other statutory business entity would be permitted to do under state law.

Steinberg noted that the bill would not allow for the growth or distribution of the drug for profit. Rather, it would simply allow these facilities to operate without fear of unwarranted harassment or arrest from state or local authorities.

The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.

Additional Resources:
California Senate acts to clarify legality of medical cannabis, May 20, 2013, By Patrick McGreevy, The Los Angeles
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Marijuana Arrests Were Racially Disparate in NYC, Report Says, May 28, 2013, Los Angeles Marijuana Lawyer Blog