Many activists, patients, supporters and reformists have worked tirelessly over the past 15 years to not only get legislation passed regarding medical marijuana, but to increase the acceptance of it as a viable medicine for treating a wide array of symptoms.
Along with the ever improving reputation of medical marijuana among the general population as an acceptable alternative to hardcore chemicals cooked up in the laboratory of a multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical company, the state’s populace has also regarded favorable legislation that reduces the penalties of non-recommended marijuana users. Long gone are the days of “Refer Madness” when it was common speculation that smoking a dreaded marijuana cigarette (cue horrifying music) would bring about insanity, fits of violent rage, criminal behavior, perverted sexual misdeeds and, gasp, homosexuality! The modern Californian holds marijuana largely in the same regard as alcohol when it comes to “the dangers” and accepts that there are very real benefits to smoking marijuana when used to treat nausea and loss of appetite due to hardcore medicines like chemotherapy, relief from chronic conditions such as arthritis, treatment of eating disorders like bulimia and anorexia, and also for the treatment of a wide variety of minor symptoms such as severe stress, anxiety, muscle and joint pain and insomnia to name a few. It’s no surprise that the general warming of attitude toward marijuana that we have seen over the last 15 years has been accompanied by a general loosening of punishment and disciplinary action taken by the state regarding marijuana related “crimes.” Senate Bill 1449, singed into law by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger on October 1st, takes another large step toward the eventual legalization and widespread acceptance of cannabis as a recreational substance as well as a plant with many medical benefits.
Thanks to the actions taken by legislators, marijuana infractions are now dealt with in much the same way as traffic infractions. Before the passage of SB 1449, if someone was caught with up to 28.5 grams (1 ounce) of non-concentrated cannabis, they were subject to a fine of up to, but not more than $100. In addition to the $100 fine, the person was subject to two additional actions:
- (1) The court shall divert and refer the
defendant for education, treatment, or rehabilitation, as specified,
- (2) an arrested person who gives satisfactory evidence of
identity and a written promise to appear in court shall not be
subjected to booking.
Under the new provisions laid out in SB 1449, which can be read in it’s entirety on the ca.gov’s website, the above stated two actions are now erased from law. If caught with up to one ounce of non-concentrated cannabis, California residents now face a maximum fine of $100, which is less than a speeding ticket it most parts of California. There is also wording in the bill that amends the vehicle code, stating that similar action be taken against drivers who are found to be in possession of up to one ounce of non-concentrated marijuana.
This responsible legislation is an excellent example of the state government showing it’s recognition that marijuana is a viable medical solution to a number of very real symptoms. It is recognition that, while still illegal on a federal level, our government wants to make as available as possible the medicine that eases the pain and suffering ailing cannabis patients throughout the state, without drawing the attention and wrath of the DEA. Currently in California, patients with medical marijuana recommendations enjoy the freedom to acquire and use cannabis in an incredibly friendly political climate and face almost no risk of persecution by law, providing they don’t abuse the situation. It is true that dispensaries still occasionally get shut down, but even in a city like Los Angeles where the DA has clamped down on dispensaries and is trying to close many of the storefronts that opened in the dispensary boom of the last 5 years, it has become very hard for them to do so simply for lack of manpower and support from the public and Federal Government. The IRS is more likely to shut down a collective for improper structuring and paperwork than the DEA for selling drugs, and the main reason that the city of Los Angeles was able to shut down some collectives was because they weren’t set up properly, not because they were selling drugs. The devil is in the details, and these days there are devils everywhere.
With all the speculation surrounding this November’s elections and the possibility of legalization, it’s important to pay attention to those details, it’s important to seek out those little devils that are idly waiting in the small text of long legal descriptions. If you are a patient who currently uses medical cannabis to relieve symptoms of a disease or ailment, it is your responsibility to be informed about the legislation that impacts your access to medicine. Do your homework, read Prop. 19, don’t listen to the hype and make an informed decision about whether this rush toward legalization is in your best interest or if a level headed, measured approach is more advantageous.