A Handy Guide to Prop 215 and SB 420 - What Is Really Legal with Weed - Sweedsy A Handy Guide to Prop 215 and SB 420 - What Is Really Legal with Weed - Sweedsy
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A Handy Guide to Prop 215 and SB 420

Cannabis Digest

Today’s availability of medical marijuana in California roots in Proposition 215, also known as the California Compassionate Use Act. It took effect on November 6, 1996. The proposition made legal for patients and designated caregivers to possess and cultivate marijuana for a personal medical use with a recommendation of a licensed physician.
It was the first step towards medical marijuana use in the state. Later, on January 1, 2004, a legislative statute, known as SB420, took effect. It broadened Prop. 215 and included transportation and other offenses under the particular circumstances. SB420 allowed patients to cooperate and form ‘collectives’ or ‘cooperatives.’ It also established a  ‘marijuana card’ system that is run by county health departments.

In 2015, California passed the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act. It set issuing permits for marijuana cultivation and dispensaries at the state level. The law took effect on January 1, 2016. The setup of necessary agencies and systems to ensure the smooth and easy permission issuing will take up to two years, with an estimated deadline in 2018. Local governments now may choose to adopt these new ordinances or license local business in preparation for state licensing.

Legally operating facilities may continue their business until the decision of the local government regarding their license application. During the establishment of the state system, all prospective applicants are strongly recommended to apply to the state Board of Equalisation for a Resale Permit in advance and start to prepare for getting approval from the local governments.

To get more info, check the state Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation website.

Prop 215 & SB 420

Covered Offences

Covered Offences

Marijuana possession and cultivation for personal medical use, including:

  • Transportation;
  • Possession of hashish;
  • Possession of concentrates;
  • Possession of edibles.

Within the context of a bona fide collective or caregiver relationship protection against charges for:

  • Possession for sale;
  • Transportation;
  • Sale;
  • Giving away;
  • Providing or leasing a place for distribution of a controlled substances.

Covered Illnesses

Covered Illnesses

Marijuana may be used to relieve symptoms of: 

  • Cancer;
  • Anorexia;
  • AIDS;
  • Chronic pain;
  • Spasticity;
  • Glaucoma;
  • Arthritis;
  • Migraine;
  • or any other illness for which marijuana provides relief.

Physicians make an assessment on a case-to-case basis and may recommend marijuana for hundreds of symptoms, including insomnia, PMS, PTSD, depression, and substance abuse.

Who is a physician?


Definition of a physician applies to:

  • Physicians;
  • Osteopaths;
  • Surgeons,

who are licensed to practice in California.


It does not apply to:

  • Chiropractors;
  • Herbal therapists;
  • Other non-traditional health practitioners.

Prop. 215 requires doctors to state that they ‘approve’ or ‘recommend’ marijuana. All licensed physicians are protected from federal prosecution for prescribing marijuana.

Who is eligible to cultivate?

Patients with a physician’s recommendation and their primary caregivers (‘the individual designated by the person exempted under this act who has consistently assumed responsibility for the housing, health, or safety of that person’).

‘Collectives’ or ‘cooperatives’ may grow for non-profit. Collectives may scale to SB 420 limits to the number of members. Many local governments, however, tried to sharply restrict the right of patients to grow collectively. Policies may vary around the state.

How much one can possess and grow?

Patients are entitled to whatever amount they need for their personal medical use. However, exceeding of reasonable amounts is punishable, and patients can be fined for exceeding local laws.

Since January 1, 2016:

  • Qualified patients can cultivate up to 100 sq ft for personal medical use;
  • Primary caregivers with five or fewer patients are entitled to grow up to 500 sq ft accordingly.

Local governments still can restrict or ban the cultivation of medical cannabis. Always check local cultivation limits.

Can I still be raided or arrested?



  • Having dubious recommendations;
  • Growing excessive amounts of marijuana (in the police eyes);
  • On account of neighbors’ complaints;
  • Other relevant complaints and suspicions.

Once a patient has been charged, the courts decide the legal grounds of possession. Under the State Supreme Court decision, patients have the same right to marijuana as to any legally prescribed drug. Any patient who has been arrested can request dismissal of charges at a pre-trial hearing if:

  • a defendant convinces the court that the prosecution hasn’t established a probable cause other than medical purpose, criminal charges are dropped and the defendant may claim back their property and report the damages;
  • a defendant doesn’t convince the court, the prosecution should prove ‘beyond the reasonable doubt’ that the defendant is guilty.

If police raided you and took your medicine without filing criminal charges, you need to file a court suit to get it back. For legal assistance contact Americans for Safe Access.

What about federal charges?

The U.S. Controlled Substances Act makes possession of marijuana a misdemeanor. Cultivation is a felony. However, federal officials have stated that they will not pursue individual patients.


  • Medical marijuana patients are not protected on federal parkland or forest land in California. A California medical recommendation is not valid for defense in federal court.
  • The US Department of Housing and Urban Development allows local housing authorities to develop their own rules regarding medical marijuana use in HUD housing.

Do I need a state ID card?

You’re not required to, but ID card can provide an extra assurance of protection against arrest. The state ID card system guarantees patient privacy protection under federal laws and HIPAA. Police and employers don’t have access to this system.

Patients and caregivers can obtain state ID cards through the health departments of the county where they reside. Some services and doctors now offer verified ID cards.

Where marijuana can be smoked?

You can not smoke marijuana:

  • in no smoking zones;
  • within 1,000 ft of a school or any youth center (except in private residences);
  • on school buses;
  • in a motor vehicle or a boat that is being operated.

In public, patients are advised to consume discreetly.

Where can I grow medicine?

Even if a patient may grow marijuana for a personal medical use, landlords in California are not legally obliged to permit it.

Always check local policies.

Can I sell my excess medicine?


But SB 420 allows legal caregivers and collective members to charge for their expenses in growing for other on a ’non-profit’ basis. Growers who provide medical marijuana must be members of a collective or be ‘primary caregivers’ to avoid prosecution.

Can prisoners and probationers use medical marijuana?

SB 420 allows probationers, parolees and prisoners to use medical marijuana if prescribed. They can ask a judge to verify their rights. Keep in mind that medical marijuana is prohibited in jails and prisons.

Can patients be drug tested at work?


The California Supreme Court has ruled that employers can drug test and fire patients who test positive for marijuana, whether they have prescription or not. Marijuana is strictly prohibited at jobs with federal drug testing regulations.

Can I take medical marijuana on a plane?

Be careful.

Some airports will respect your right to medication, others won’t. If TSA security finds out marijuana, the standard procedure is to turn you over to local law enforcement who follow state laws. Always carry a proof of your eligibility to use medical marijuana.

How long are recommendations valid?

As long as a doctor prescribed. However, SB 420 requires renewing ID cards every year. Police also refuse to recognize recommendations that are older than a year.

What about out-of-staters?

Prop. 215 may be applied to anyone with a recommendation from a California-licensed physician, however it wasn’t tested in court. To avoid any possible problems, Californian dispensaries and physicians require a proof of residency from patients and refuse to prescribe marijuana to out-of-staters.

What about minors?

Patients under 18 must have parental consent.

Can I grow or use medical marijuana with children in the house?

Be careful.

Keep your medical marijuana away from children. Formally, there is nothing in law that can prohibit you from growing. However, an involvement of Child Protective Services can cause troubles, especially in cases with large plant numbers and evidence of sales.

Something we missed?

We’ll be updating this post if some changes would happen. If you think we forgot something important, let us know.

In the meantime, share and educate your friends and family.

Enjoy responsibly!

Can I own or buy a gun holding a medical marijuana card?

When you buy a gun, you may be asked whether you are a user of medical marijuana. Remember that answering yes makes you ineligible to purchase a gun. A false statement is a punishable offense. Current gun owners should not be affected but in case law enforcement find a connection between a gun and marijuana-related offenses (possession for sale or illegal cultivation), it may be a ground for additional criminal charges.

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