Medical Marijuana

The End of California's Pot Shops?

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Today the California Supreme Court ruled (PDF) that people who merely provide marijuana to patients for medical use do not qualify as "primary caregivers" under the Compassionate Use Act, which means they are not allowed to grow or possess the drug. The act defines a "primary caregiver" as the "individual designated by the [patient] who has consistently assumed responsibility for the housing, health, or safety of that person." According to the court, that definition implies "a caretaking relationship directed at the core survival needs of a seriously ill patient, not just one single pharmaceutical need." Hence "a defendant asserting primary caregiver status must prove at a minimum that he or she (1) consistently provided caregiving, (2) independent of any assistance in taking medical marijuana, (3) at or before the time he or she assumed responsibility for assisting with medical marijuana."

The upshot, says California NORML Coordinator Dale Gieringer, is that only patients themselves or people directly involved in their day-to-day care, such as friends, relatives, nurses, or attendants, are permitted to grow and possess marijuana for medical purposes. That means dispensaries that claim to be "primary caregivers" because they supply marijuana to patients are now illegal, although cooperatives through which patients produce marijuana for their own medical use are still permitted. The court's reading of the law seems reasonable to me, but Gieringer is right that it "highlights the inadequacy of California's current medical marijuana supply system." He argues that "the law needs to allow for professional licensed growers, as with other medicinal herbs."