California Medical Marijuana (Proposition 215 and Health & Safety Code § 11362.7)

In 1996, California voters passed Proposition 215 legalizing the medical use of marijuana in the state. Proposition 215, also known as the "Compassionate Use Act," allows qualified patients and their primary caregivers to cultivate and possess marijuana in connection with the treatment or care of certain illnesses and conditions so long as they do not distribute or sell it.

California's medical marijuana laws protect qualified patients and patients' primary caregivers from conviction for possessing or growing marijuana. Unfortunately, many qualified patients and primary caregivers are still arrested and prosecuted for marijuana charges and forced to present a defense to enforce their rights under the law. Understanding California's medical marijuana laws can help qualified patients and caregivers ensure that they are in compliance with the law and that their rights are protected.

If you or someone you care about is facing a drug or marijuana charge, the criminal defense attorneys at the Weinrieb Law Firm can help explain the charges and properly defend against them. We can be reached twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week at
(818) 933-6555.

Qualified Patients Under California's Medical Marijuana Laws

In general, California's medical marijuana laws permit patients to legally possess and grow marijuana if they have a doctor's recommendation to do so. Specifically, patients may possess and grow marijuana for medical purposes, and the laws for Marijuana Possession (Health & Safety Code § 11357) and Marijuana Cultivation (Health & Safety Code § 11358) do not apply to them, under the following conditions:

  • The patient suffers from a qualifying condition or illness, defined as cancer, anorexia, AIDS, chronic pain, spasticity, glaucoma, arthritis, migraine, or any other illness for which marijuana provides relief;
  • A physician has determined that the person's health would benefit from the use of marijuana in the treatment of their condition or illness;
  • The marijuana is for personal medical use and they are not selling or distributing it; and
  • The amount of marijuana the patient possesses or is growing is consistent with the medical needs of the patient.

Qualified Primary Caregivers Under California's Medical Marijuana Laws

Primary caregivers have the same rights as a patient to possess and grow marijuana on behalf of the patient if they meet the legal standard of a primary care giver. In People v. Mench, the California Supreme Court recently clarified the strict rules for qualifying as a primary caregiver. Specifically, for purposes of the medical marijuana laws:

  • The primary caregiver must have been designated by the patient as a primary caregiver;
  • The primary caregiver must provide care to the patient beyond just assisting the patient in taking marijuana; they must also assume responsibility for the housing, health or safety of the patient; and
  • The primary caregiver must "consistently" provide the necessary care to the patient.

In other words, simply supplying or growing marijuana for a patient – even if the patient has a right to the protection of the medical marijuana laws – will not alone protect someone as a "caregiver."

Possession And Cultivation Limits for Medical Purposes

A qualified patient or the patient's primary caregiver may possess or grow an amount of marijuana that is "consistent" with the patient's medical needs. There is no specific possession or growing limit that applies to everyone – it is a subjective standard based on the particular medical needs of each patient.

A recent opinion by the California Supreme Court in People v. Kelly, struck down the strict limits California lawmakers had put on how much marijuana a qualified patient could possess or grow. As a result, the possession limits have reverted back to the original patient-by-patient standard that was originally passed by the voters in Proposition 215.

Qualified patients should discuss and understand their individual marijuana consumption needs with their physician to reduce the possibility of an unnecessary marijuana-related charge and to protect their rights under California's medical marijuana laws.

Contact Us

If you or someone you care about is facing criminal investigation or criminal charges of any type, please contact the criminal defense attorneys at the Weinrieb Law Firm. We can be reached twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week at (818) 933-6555, or through the confidential and secure email form on the firm's website at

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