Unfortunately, the system which is in place brings many ill-fated
medical marijuana patients charged with felony possession, transportation or
cultivation, to the offices of criminal defense lawyers who are unskilled in
handling these types of matters. Frequently,
they are bullied into taking plea deals which have consequences they do not
understand at the time they change their plea. Even a misdemeanor drug charge can have
In 1996, the California voters enacted the Compassionate Use
Act which allows Californians with a legitimate medical need to possess,
transport, and cultivate marijuana. It
also permits patient associations and cooperatives as well as individual
caregivers to dispense marijuana. The
problem is that law enforcement and state prosecutors don't agree with the will
of the voters of the State of California. When a defendant pleads guilty to a marijuana
charge even though they had a legitimate medical need and were not profiting
they are in fact setting back the law.
In the case People vs. Kelly, the California Supreme Court
acknowledged the existence of a limited immunity and struck down quantity
limits as being unconstitutional. This
last year People vs. Colvin and People vs. Jackson sent a message to trial
courts that the affirmative defenses which a defendant is entitled to under the
Compassionate Use Act must be given to the jury to consider. A jury must hear the law that
marijuana. Lawyers who are not informed
of this and/or unskilled at presenting cases before a jury are really hurting
their individual clients and the medical marijuana community as a whole.
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