Medical marijuana laws are complex. Possession and use of marijuana for medical purposes is now permitted by 18 states and the District of Columbia and legislation is pending in 10 others. While possession by a qualified medical patient is permitted under California state law, possession or use of marijuana - even for medicinal purposes - remains illegal under federal law. Similarly, while cultivation is permitted for qualified medical patients under state law, cultivation or possession of marijuana plants remains illegal under federal law. The Department of Justice categorizes marijuana as a Schedule 1 controlled substance. Although the Department of Justice, through what is commonly referred to as the "Ogden Memo", has stated its focus of federal resources should not be on individuals whose actions are in compliance with existing state laws, investigations and prosecutions of violations of state and federal law continue and appear to becoming more aggressive and there has been a marked increase of prosecution of medical marijuana producers in recent months.
For medical marijuana dispensaries, compliance with the law is even more complex. Dispensaries are licensed and regulated largely by local municipal laws and law enforcement. In addition to concerns over licensing and potential federal enforcement of federal marijuana laws, subtle issues exist with regard to business formation, renting property, and managing the daily operation of the business. Dispensaries are not explicitly recognized under California law, but should operate so as to fit the definition of a cooperative or collective.
Cooperatives formed for the cultivation or distribution of marijuana for medical purposes are subject to strict legal requirements. The guidelines for formation of medical marijuana collectives are less structured than cooperatives. However, both cooperatives and collectives must be organized so as to prevent the distribution of marijuana for non-medical purposes, and cannot operate on a for-profit basis. Collectives and cooperatives should acquire marijuana only from their constituent members, and provide marijuana only to their constituent members.
The Law Offices of Vincent J. LaBarbera has significant experience representing individuals and dispensaries charged with violating California's medical marijuana laws. We can assist in advising you on compliance with the law. If you face criminal charges, we will represent you aggressively and explore every option for limiting the claims against you. Call us today at (949) 662-1791 for a confidential consultation.