Cops Fight Clarity of Medical Marijuana Sales

Categories: Marijuana
My call
Police in California have long expressed displeasure with the state's medical marijuana laws. And with good reason: Cops might have the legal right to haul into court medical marijuana merchants who exchange cash for cannabis. But then again, they might not.

Much police behavior depends on the mood of the local police chief or county sheriff. Either way, pot providers thusly busted then howl in court that their papers are in order and their sales tax bills are proof that they're a legitimate enterprise and not a criminal front.

How are the police -- and the folks they're sworn to protect and serve -- to figure out what to do, when the laws themselves are deemed inadequate? State Sen. Mark Leno wants to lend a hand. The San Francisco Democrat is pushing a law that expressly allows sales -- and "reasonable compensation incurred for services provided" -- while forbidding "excess" profits.

This is seen as the best possible compromise to ensure the state's medical cannabis users -- the ones who don't have a pot farm of their own -- can acquire their medicine, and that providers don't need to give it away for free (dirt, seed, and PG&E bills aren't free). But not by the powerful police lobby in Sacramento: A coalition representing police chiefs, county sheriffs and local cops (mostly from Southern California) is fighting the measure -- and may succeed in killing the bill before it can be heard this legislative session.

Even Leno agrees that the law as written is inadequate. "The legality of entities such as medical cannabis dispensaries ... and their ability to be compensated for their services, is ambiguous under current law," his office writes.

1996's Proposition 215 only gave the right for "patients" to "obtain and use" marijuana, with no clear explanation of how to do either; 2003's SB 420 allowed for users to associate into collectives, but did not expressly allow storefront dispensaries or delivery services -- which some California cities and counties allow, and which others expressly forbid.
Leno's bill, SB 1182, makes it so that any collective or other entity dispensing cannabis within the guidelines written in 2008 by then-Attorney General Jerry Brown can receive compensation for costs incurred. Brown's guidelines, while not law per se, are seen as gospel in court by prosecutors, which makes them the next best thing.

The bill passed a Senate committee earlier this month on a 5-2 vote and is waiting to be heard on the full Senate floor -- which it may not get. A coalition of police interests, including the California Narcotic Officers' Association and the California Police Chiefs Association, insists that the bill allows for profiteering, and are coming out against it. No California state lawmaker can easily survive being dubbed soft on crime, so the opposition may doom the bill before it is debated.

A spokeswoman for Leno said the senator is hopeful the bill will be called this session, but the deadline looms. It must be heard before June 1, or it dies.

"Proposition 215 is very clear that marijuana may be cultivated or provided by qualified patients, or by caregivers," the cops write in their argument against SB 1182. "Proposition 215 did not authorize cultivation or distribution of marijuana by any other entities."

Maybe not. But what about SB 420? Or Brown's guidelines? Leno's bill would appear to set the record straight. If only the police would allow it.

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Riley Spckart
Riley Spckart

I can understand their frustration.  In my view, medical marijuana is one thing...a legitimate application for a legitimate need.  Unfortunately, many doctors (for a fee) will ask open questions such that anybody with the fee can obtain a cannabis card.I have gone by dispensaries, and it appears to me, very few there are about getting well, they are there for the high.The cops aren't complete doofuses, 'ya know.Besides, with dispensaries, THEY can't take the usual rake off evidence from a bust. 


"1996's Proposition 215 only gave the right for "patients" to "obtain and use" marijuana, with no clear explanation of how to do either;"

Umm, I thought part of the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 said, "C) To encourage the federal and state governments to implement a plan for the safe and affordable distribution of marijuana to all patients in medical need of marijuana." I guess I thought that meant that they thought it was up to the Legislature.

Corey Chrisman
Corey Chrisman

Should I wear red seude pumps to my med cannabis court date, or a more conservative black stiletto?

Bud Green
Bud Green

Every little bit helps, as they say, but if the cops can't get their heads around this modest proposal, it illustrates the challenge ahead for more expansive reform measures. This is starting to sound a lot like Cold War rhetoric rehashed right before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Nobody likes the current state of affairs, but let's not point fingers at Prop. 215 or SB 420. We left local governments enough rope to hang themselves with dispensary bans and now a growing wave of personal cultivation bans. For every jurisdiction that adopted reasonable regulations -- even taxes, gasp! -- 20 or 30 adopted knee-jerk moratoria followed by permanent bans. The problem is not with the laws we have, but with the steadfast determination of police agencies and local politicians to ignore and/or undermine California's medical marijuana laws, damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead. The iceberg you see is called "legalization."


"[P]ersonal cultivation bans"? Where?

Personal cultivation by patients & their caregivers is guaranteed by Prop. 215.

I can't imagine such a ban standing a court challenge any more than a local ban on possession would.

More info please.


 Prohibition causes 100% of the violence surrounding marijuana, with the help of the ones paid to protect and serve us. They say they're just trying to keep us safe but fight tooth and nail to keep this war on American citizens going, killing us and our pets and stealing our property over a plant that can't hurt you. When will we put an end to this terrorism?

Diane Valdovinos
Diane Valdovinos

I agree it is poorly written. I know I am going to get shit for this but oh well.  Prop 215 SB 420 - Medical Marijuana Protect my rights.  Control the insanity - A "Caregiver" person(s) relatives or friends of the disabled individual who helps the disabled with ADL.

My sister is the primary caregiver for my brother in law.  He has parkinsons and prostate cancer.  His cancer has advanced to stage IV.  He is 100% disabled confined to bed and his wheelchair.  My sister feeds,cleans,bathes,drives everything.  She is his caregiver. 

I don't feel a caregiver is some dude who rents me 3 acres and grows for me. It is not my friend who has a friend who has a friend that is letting everyone grow there is pot. It is not a collective that is charging outragous price for my meds. 

Until others can be respectful and responsible my goal is to make sure Prop 215 patients rights are protected. 

Don't get me wrong I am all for legalization, but the issue is Prop 215 patients.   

Jose Gonzales
Jose Gonzales

Cops do whatever they want to do.  Why should they care if a law is clarified or not?

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