California Law Governing Medical Marijuana Dispensaries (CA Health and Safety Code 11357)

Last Modified: October 11, 2020
March 24, 2015 | Rabin Nabizadeh | Marijuana

Recently, you may have read about how so-termed ‘pot clubs’ (medical marijuana dispensaries and/or grow collectives) in the Bay area have been building a positive name for themselves by contributing financially to gun buybacks.  Unlike the state of Colorado, which has passed laws making the use of marijuana legal for both medical and recreational use, only medical marijuana is legal in California, and only under certain conditions.  Since pot clubs are making an attempt to be seen in a better light, it might be timely to remind readers of the California laws governing medical marijuana and its distribution to patients.

Marijuana that is used for medical purposes has been legal in California since 1996 when voters passed the Compassionate Use Act (Proposition 215 & CA Health & Safety Code 11362.5), which effectively made medical marijuana legal.  Most Californians are aware that, in order to grow marijuana for personal, medical use, you must first get a prescription from a legitimate doctor, then pay a fee to receive your medical marijuana identification card.  Once in possession of this card, you are allowed to grow as much marijuana as you reasonably need, at your doctor’s recommendation, to treat whatever medical issue is plaguing you.

However, growing one’s own marijuana can be time-consuming and complex, it’s evidently not like growing tomatoes in your spring garden!  So, many people have developed marijuana grow cooperatives.  These cooperatives (or ‘collectives’) allow persons to grow their medical marijuana plants together in the same area.  You do not even have to participate fully in the cultivation of your own plants; as long as the cooperative does not grow more marijuana than is allowed by prescription to its members (Attorney General’s guidelines or Senate Bill 40).  In general, collectives are only defined by state law and must be officially incorporated.  Of course, though the federal government makes the cultivation of any amount of marijuana plants a felony, and though they have made promises not to prosecute individuals who have medical marijuana permissions within their own state, there is always the possibility of harassment or arrest for marijuana possession (CA Health and Safety Code 11357).


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