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Cannabis and the Law

Harborside wants you to know your right under the law. Here is some helpful information and resources for your reference. The laws governing the medical marijuana industry is continually evolving therefore it is likely that the below information will be changing.

Unlike California’s current regulation that legalized medical cannabis, federal law currently prohibits possession of medical cannabis. Be aware of this when possessing, transporting or using medical cannabis on federal government property and states outside of California.

Proposition 215
Proposition 215 was a proposition in the state of California on the November 5, 1996 ballot. It passed with 5,382,915 (55.6%) votes in favor and 4,301,960 (44.4%) against.

Also known as the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, the proposition was a state-wide voter initiative authored by Dennis Peron, Anna Boyce [RN], Valerie Corral (, Dale Gieringer, William Panzer, Scott Imler, San Francisco oncologists Richard Cohen and Ivan Silverberg, and psychiatrist Tod H. Mikuriya, and approved by California voters. It allows those with a valid doctor’s recommendation to possess and cultivate marijuana for personal medical use. The Act added Section 11362.5 to the California Health and Safety Code. This law has caused much conflict in the United States between states’ rights advocates and those who support a stronger federal presence.

Although “Compassionate Use” is now protected in California law, the federal government continues to effect prosecutions under the Controlled Substances Act. The constitutionality of the act was recently challenged, but subsequently upheld by the Supreme Court (cf. Gonzales v. Raich). Upon announcement of the Supreme Court decision, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger briefly suspended the operation of programs related to compassionate use, but was compelled to resume after Attorney General Bill Lockyer issued a memo stating the Supreme Court ruling does not change any laws involving medical marijuana in California, it only confirmed that federal raids by the DEA were in fact legal and could continue to take place.

California Senate Bill 420
Senate Bill 420 was passed by the California Legislature to address vague provisions of Proposition 215. The bill was signed into effect by outgoing Governor Gray Davis in 2003.

SB 420, which reflects a compromise between patients’ advocates and law enforcement, includes controversial state guidelines regarding how much Marijuana patients may grow and possess without being subject to arrest. It also requires counties to implement a voluntary patient identification card system and other provisions to protect patients and their caregivers from arrest. The guidelines, which were hotly disputed by California NORML and other patients’ advocates, allow patients up to 6 mature or 12 immature plants and up to one-half pound of dried, processed marijuana. Patient advocates had pushed for more liberal guidelines, such as those adopted by Sonoma County, which allow up to 99 plants in a 100 square foot growing area plus 3 pounds of marijuana. The final guidelines were decided in a last-minute legislative deal by Attorney General Lockyer and Sen. Vasconcellos in order to get the bill passed. In other provisions, SB 420:

  • Recognizes the right of patients and caregivers to associate collectively or cooperatively to cultivate medical marijuana.
  • Disallows marijuana smoking in no smoking zones, within 1000 feet of a school or youth center except in private residences, on school buses, in a motor vehicle that is being operated, or while operating a boat.
  • Protects patients and caregivers from arrest for transportation and other miscellaneous charges not covered in 215.
  • Allows probationers, parolees, and prisoners to apply for permission to use medical marijuana; however, such permission may be refused at the discretion of the authorities.
  • Makes it a crime to fraudulently provide misinformation to obtain a card, to steal or misuse the card of another, to counterfeit a card, or to breach the confidentiality of patient records in the card program.

Cannabis Resources:

Harborside on Sensible Cannabis Use

Guidelines for Eating Cannabis

Americans for Safe Access
Americans for Safe Access is the largest national member-based organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research.

California NORML
California NORML is a non-profit, membership organization dedicated to reforming California’s marijuana laws.

Marijuana Policy Project (MPP)
Marijuana Policy Project was founded in 1995 with the belief that the greatest harm associated with marijuana is prison. Their main focus being on removing criminal penalties associated with marijuana use, and making medical marijuana available to seriously ill people who have the approval of their doctors.

National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML)
Founded in 1970, NORML has led the fight against marijuana prohibition and favors an end to the practice of arresting marijuana
smokers through elected legislatures and voter initiative.

Students for Sensible Drug Policy
An international grassroots network of students who are concerned about the impact drug abuse has on our communities, but who also know that the War on Drugs is failing our generation and our society.