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California medical marijuana card owners are well served by a small army of friendly, knowledgeable, and well-stocked MMJ dispensaries. But there is also a lot to be said for cultivating your own medical cannabis.
It is a beautiful feeling to sit back, relax, and spark up a bowl that you yourself have reared, tended to, and watched develop over a period of several months. It is a very satisfying experience to grow your own weed, and a rewarding day when you smoke the herb that you have produced with your own hands. It provides a lovely feeling of accomplishment.
But what does the law say about cultivating your own cannabis? Does a California medical marijuana card enable a patient to grow their own weed, and if so, in what amounts, and where?
Proposition 215, the California Compassionate Use Act, which came into effect in 1996 makes it legal for patients and their primary caregivers to grow their own medical marijuana for personal use, provided they have the recommendation and approval of a licensed California physician.
The law explicitly covers cannabis cultivation for personal medical use only. Under Proposition 215 patients are allowed to grow whatever amount of medical marijuana they require to treat or manage their particular illness. 420 card patients can be prosecuted if they exceed these reasonable limits. They can also get into trouble for exceeding a local jurisdiction’s cultivation limits.
In 2004 a legislative statute went into effect that broadened Proposition 215. It allowed California medical marijuana card patients to form non-profit medical cannabis growing collectives and cooperatives. Many collectives and cooperatives now operate in the state, however, like in so many areas of MMJ law, exact policies vary from local jurisdiction to local jurisdiction, and many local governments within California have banned or restricted the rights of patients to set up collectives. Collectives tend to attract the attention of law enforcement, and large outdoor grows with over 100 plants are risky as, although they are not necessarily in breach of Proposition 215, they carry a five-year minimum sentence under US federal law.
The Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, which came into effect January 1st 2016, established a system for the permitting of marijuana cultivation and dispensaries. It allows patients to grow up to 100 square feet of cannabis for personal medical use, and primary caregivers with five or less patients to cultivate up to 500 square feet. The cultivation of amounts above this is considered to be growing for commercial sale, and to do this a license is required. Again though, this does not mean a local government cannot enforce its own restrictions or bans on the cultivation of medical marijuana in its own jurisdiction.
Problems with law enforcement are always a possibility when cultivating your own MMJ. Patients have been arrested for growing amounts that police deem over and above what they require, or due to complaints from other residents in an area, or for having dubious recommendations. Patients have ended up on trial, needing to prove the veracity of their medical marijuana cultivation needs. The State Supreme Court has ruled that patients have the same rights to medical cannabis as they do to any legally prescribed drug, thus, patients who have been arrested for cultivation can request dismissal of charges at a pretrial hearing, and the dismissal will be granted if the can convince the judge that there is no probable cause that it wasn’t for medical purposes. Patients in this situation, when acquitted, will have their plants returned to them.
You can grow your medical marijuana on your own private property. However, landlords are not obligated to allow tenants to cultivate medical cannabis on their property, and some local jurisdictions have enacted zoning laws that restrict where medical marijuana can be grown.
Proposition 215 does not allow California medical marijuana card patients to sell their excess cultivated medical marijuana. Legal caregivers and members of growing collectives can charge for their expenses in growing for others, but always on a non-profit basis.
When Proposition 64 comes into effect in January 2018 at the earliest, it will become legal to cultivate recreational marijuana. It will be possible to cultivate up to six plants per residence and possess the marijuana produced by these plants. Local governments may still forbid cultivation outdoors, but must allow it inside a private residence or accessory structure that is “fully enclosed and secure”.
These new cultivation laws will not affect the existing legal rights of California medical marijuana card holders to grow as much as they need under the original Proposition 215, or up to 100 square feet under the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act.
So yes, it is certainly possible to grow your own MMJ in California, but always be wise and aware of how much you are growing, where you are growing it, and what your local jurisdiction’s specific rules and regulations are.