Criminal Law

Crim. Law Journal Winter/Spring 2014, Vol. 14, Issue 1

PROSECUTORIAL INDISCRETIONS IN MEDICAL MARIJUANA

By Allison B. Margolin and James R. Lawrence

In 1996, California became the first state in the county to pass a law allowing medical use and cultivation of marijuana. And in 2004, the State passed additional legislation (Senate Bill 420, codified at Health and Safety Code sections 11362.7-11362.81, and commonly known as the Medical Marijuana Program Act) allowing medical marijuana collectives, through which patients without the resources or skills to grow their own marijuana could obtain their medication by joining a dispensary or informal group cultivation project. These statutes immunized sale and possession for sale of medical marijuana by patients in certain circumstances.

The preamble to Senate Bill 420 explains that these statutes were passed due to shortcomings of the original medical marijuana law from 1996, noting that "reports from across the state have revealed problems and uncertainties in the [1996] act that have impeded the ability of law enforcement officers to enforce its provisions as the voters intended, and, therefore, have prevented qualified patients and designated primary caregivers from obtaining the protections afforded by the act."

The preamble goes on to state that the Legislature’s intent in passing SB420 was to

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