Los Angeles Medical Marijuana Attorney

Charged with a medical marijuana offense?

If you have been arrested or charged with an offense relating to medical marijuana in California, specifically possession, sale, transportation or cultivation, you need to speak to an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense lawyer to protect your rights. You need an attorney who has successfully defended against these charges and has the knowledge to effectively fight your case and win a dismissal. The criminal defense attorneys at Stephen G. Rodriguez & Partners bring over 70 years of combined legal experience and have successfully defended others charged with marijuana offenses as well as other drug offenses.

Medical Marijuana Lawyer in Los Angeles

California was one of the first states to legalize marijuana for medical use by passing Proposition 215 in 1996. The Compassionate Use Act, known as "Prop. 215," is contained in Health and Safety Code section 11362.5, which states that criminal penalties for possession and cultivation of marijuana shall not apply to a patient or a patient's primary caregiver who possesses or cultivates marijuana for personal medical purposes on the written or oral recommendation or approval of an "attending physician:" a licensed osteopathic or medical doctor. The amount of marijuana possessed and cultivated must be reasonably related to the patient's current medical needs. A primary caregiver is someone who has consistently assumed responsibility for the housing, health, or safety of a patient who may legally possess or cultivate marijuana. The Compassionate Use Act also permits patients and caregivers to transport marijuana for medical needs. Health and Safety Code section 11362.765.

The California medical marijuana laws are complicated and continue to develop and change. For example, the Compassionate Use Act does not confer immunity to persons who supply patients and caregivers with marijuana. The sale and possession of marijuana in California is still illegal and those arrested are faced with felonies including potential state prison sentences. Under federal law, medical necessity is not recognized as a criminal defense, and therefore selling, transporting or distributing marijuana for any reason is a federal crime. Unfortunately, there are many misconceptions about medical marijuana and in a number of California counties, innocent people who have legitimate medical documentation are still arrested, their marijuana is confiscated, and they are charged and prosecuted for marijuana offenses.

Qualified Medical Marijuana Users

Every person does not have a right to use medical marijuana. According to the California Medical Marijuana Laws (Health & Safety Code sections 11362.5 and 11362.7-11362.83), the person using the marijuana must be a "qualified patient." To be a qualified patient, the marijuana user's doctor must have determined that marijuana would provide relief from the symptoms of the patient's illness. The law lists a variety of illness (e.g., cancer, AIDS, anorexia, arthritis, cancer, chronic pain, glaucoma, migraines, seizures, nausea), but also allows medical marijuana treatment for any "illness for which marijuana provides relief." See Health and Safety Code section 11362.7 (h)(12). Patients and the patients' caretakers are covered by these laws.

Medical Marijuana Identification Card

Qualified patients and their caretakers can obtain a Medical Marijuana Identification Card (MMIC) issued by the State Department of Health Services identifying a person allowed to use marijuana and the primary caregiver. Having a valid MMIC protects the individual from being arrested for drug offenses related to medical marijuana unless there is reason to believe that the information contained on the MMIC is false. If you do not have a card, you are still protected by the Compassionate Use Act and the Medical Marijuana Program Act, but police are given more leeway in making arrests and confiscating your marijuana.

Marijuana Limits

The California law as contained in Health and Safety Code section 11362.77 specifically states that a qualified patient or primary caregivers may possess no more than eight (8) ounces of dried marijuana per qualified patient or no more than six (6) mature or twelve (12) immature marijuana plants per qualified patient. In 2010, the California Supreme Court (People v. Kelly 47 Cal4th 1008) recently ruled that these limits were unconstitutional, which in essence means that a qualified patient or primary caregiver could have quantities beyond those limits if it could be established in court that the quantity was reasonably related to their medical needs.

Medical Marijuana Collectives, Cooperatives and Dispensaries

California Medical Marijuana Laws also give patients/caregivers limited rights to form collectives and cooperatives for the cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana. According to the California Attorney General, specifications exist for the operation of these collectives and cooperatives, including:

  • Organization members must be qualified patients and caretakers
  • Marijuana cannot be distributed to non-members
  • The organization must be non-profit; marijuana can be distributed for free in exchange for services or for a fee calculated to cover the expenses of the organization.

In addition, cities and counties throughout California have adopted their own ordinances that regulate collectives, cooperatives and dispensaries.

Medical Marijuana Penalties

If you are arrested for using, possessing, growing, transporting, selling or distributing marijuana and your circumstances are not covered by the California Medical Marijuana Laws, you will be subject to prosecution under the various California Marijuana Laws that apply to recreational use. The penalties for these crimes range from a citation (like a traffic ticket) for being in possession of less than an ounce to a seven year sentence in a state prison for selling marijuana to a minor.

Additionally, the Medical Marijuana Program Act (MMPA) makes it illegal to:

  • Lie about a medical condition for the purpose of falsely obtaining a medical marijuana identification card.
  • Steal or fraudulently use another person's identification card in order to acquire, possess, cultivate, transport, use, produce, or distribute marijuana.
  • Counterfeit, tamper with, or fraudulently produce an identification card.
  • Breach the confidentiality requirements of the law.

A first MMPA offense is punished by up to six months in the county jail and/or a maximum fine of $1,000. Second and subsequent offenses are punished by up to one year in the county jail, and/or a maximum fine of $1,000.

Legal Defenses

If you have been wrongfully arrested, our experienced and skilled criminal defense attorneys will do all that is possible to get your marijuana case dismissed prior to trial by presenting the prosecution with evidence that you are a qualified patient or caretaker. If your case does go to trial, rest assured that we will use your qualifications under The Compassionate Use Act as an affirmative defense. We can also file to have your marijuana returned to you. Let us put our 70 years combined legal experience to work for you! We have successfully defended many individuals charged with drug-related crimes and will answer your questions and explain your rights and legal options so that ultimately you can make the right decision to protect your future.

Protecting Your Rights Under Prop 215

Call our office to schedule a free one-on-one confidential consultation to discuss your legal situation. Let us put our 70 years of combined legal experience to work for you. We have successfully defended many individual charged with drug-related crimes. We will answer your questions, explain your rights and legal options so that ultimately you can make the right decision to protect your future.

To be a part of a law firm with successful strategies to protect your rights, contact a Los Angeles medical marijuana attorney today.