Medical Marijuana Supporters Against Legalization


A dynamic I noticed while researching my May Reason cover story on L.A.'s war on medical pot is surfacing in the debate over this year's Prop 19 to legalize and tax the weed in California: people happy with the medical status quo reluctant to overturn it with legalization.

Far from the slippery slope its enemies felt medical pot was toward full legalization, medical pot has created a set of entrenched interests happy with things pretty much the way they are, and fearing Prop 19's effects. From Huffington Post:

A coalition of medical marijuana advocates came out Tuesday against a California ballot initiative that would legalize the drug for recreational use and tax its sales.

Proposition 19 would inadvertently harm the most vulnerable patients by allowing local governments to prohibit the sale and purchase of marijuana in their jurisdictions, California Cannabis Association members said.

At a gathering outside the Capitol, the group predicted many cities and counties would impose such bans if voters approve the initiative, leaving local medical marijuana users with few options.

While undoubtedly there will be a lot of legal and political wrangling over the real-world shape of Prop 19 if it wins, proponents of 19 argue that Sect. 2 B 7-8 of the proposition's language keeps existing medical exemptions not matter what localities choose to do. Those sections:

7. Ensure that if a city decides not to tax and regulate the sale of cannabis, that buying and selling cannabis within that city's limits remain illegal, but that the city's citizens still have the right to possess and consume small amounts, except as permitted under Health and Safety Sections 11362.5 and 11362.7 through 11362.9.

8. Ensure that if a city decides it does want to tax and regulate the buying and selling of cannabis (to and from adults only), that a strictly controlled legal system is implemented to oversee and regulate cultivation, distribution, and sales, and that the city will have control over how and how much cannabis can be bought and sold, except as permitted under Health and Safety Sections 11362.5 and 11362.7 through 11362.9.

However, some activists makes the complicated case that various aspects of the Proposition as written may or could or will be interpreted to mess up the medical system. Excerpts:

the only medical marijuana exemptions that the Regulate, Control and Tax Cannabis Initiative actually makes are with regard to possession, consumption and purchase limits, which only ensure that patients would still be allowed to buy medicine at dispensaries. The word "cultivate" is conspicuously absent. Whereas today a person with a doctor's recommendation has the right to grow up to an unlimited number of plants, the initiative would drastically reduce that number to whatever can fit in a 5'x5′ footprint (around 3-6 plants—per property, not per person). This will force many patients to resort to buying instead of growing their own medicine…

The initiative would further impact medical marijuana patients by banning medicating in the privacy of their own homes if there are minors present, as well as in public (currently perfectly legal[18])—an invaluable liberty to those with painful diseases who would otherwise have to suffer until they got home to relieve their pain.

Finally, the medical marijuana laws that are exempted from this initiative apparently only apply to cities. For medical marijuana patients who live in an area that has county or local government jurisdiction, according to a strict reading of the initiative, medical marijuana laws are not exempt.[19]

It is true that those sections quoted above from Prop 19 only mention cities; what mischief that might lead to it's hard to say now. However, if you look at 11362.5, which is part of the existing statutes that Prop 19 explicitly says will still have its content permitted notwithstanding a city's choices under the proposition, it says:

d) Section 11357, relating to the possession of marijuana, and Section 11358, relating to the cultivation of marijuana, shall not apply to a patient, or to a patient's primary caregiver, who possesses or cultivates marijuana for the personal medical purposes of the patient upon the written or oral recommendation or approval of a physician.

And that reads to me, not a lawyer, as if cultivation rights are untouched by Prop 19. Section 11358 is the California code that explicitly states that "Every person who plants, cultivates, harvests, dries, or processes any marijuana or any part thereof, except as otherwise provided by law, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison."