Compassionate Use Act Background
Under provisions of Proposition 215 (2006), the California Compassionate Use Act, medicinal marijuana use by defined patients and caregivers was granted. Provisions of Prop. 215 have been interpreted to provide qualified physicians the ability to recommend medicinal cannabis to patients. To use and possess medicinal marijuana, patients and caregivers are required to obtain an identification card issued by county health departments. This ID card of sorts provides the cardholder the ability to use, cultivate, purchase and possess medicinal marijuana while exempting them from criminal prosecution related to these specified drug crimes. Several related issues arose after the passage of Prop. 215, including legality of marijuana collectives and dispensaries.
Legislation Proposed to Address Implementation Issues
Senate President Pro Tempore Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) introduced SB 439 in early February to address issues surrounding the legality of businesses cultivating and distributing medical marijuana. The bill affords medical marijuana collectives, dispensaries and related business entities the right to cultivate medical cannabis and distribute it for profit. The Assembly Public Safety Committee approved SB 439 on Tuesday on a party-line.
The League and law enforcement stakeholders oppose SB 439 because its broad provisions curtail local governments from taking nuisance abatement actions against such businesses operating unlawfully. By precluding criminal prosecution of medical marijuana dispensaries, SB 439 ties the hands of local governments and prevents law enforcement officials from taking the necessary actions to protect public safety. The League believes it is unwise for policymakers to embrace any statutory framework for the organization of marijuana collectives into business entities before significant objections about the need for stronger enforcement provisions and language addressing medical fraud that have been raised in good faith are resolved.
The Assembly Health Committee is now expected to take up the measure as soon as next week. Though a hearing date has not been set, the League encourages city officials to send letters of opposition for SB 439 as it progresses towards the Assembly Floor. The SB 439 opposition letter and bill text are available online.