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Proposition 215 - The Compassionate Use Act of 1996

Passed by 56% of California voters in 1996, this law provides an exemption from prosecution to patients and caregivers that possess or cultivate cannabis for personal medical purposes. This law did not make cannabis legal. The law allows patients and caregivers who have been approved by a licensed California physician to present an affirmative medical cannabis defense in court.  Minors under 18 can be approved as long as parents or guardians give permission.


Senate Bill 420

This bill was passed in the California legislature in 2002. Its goal was to define some of the vague language in Prop 215 by outlining where patients could use (and not use) medical cannabis, how much cannabis that patients and caregivers could possess and grow, and it set up a voluntary state ID card system that provides those who register with protection from arrest. It also compelled the Attorney General to set regulations for collectives and co-ops.

In January 2010, the California Supreme Court affirmed a ruling by the Second Appellate District Court who overturned a patient's conviction on the grounds that "legislatively-imposed limits on possession and cultivation of medical cannabis are an unconstitutional restriction of the voter-approved Prop 215". What the court essentially said was that the limits outlined in Senate Bill 420 are not constitutional; patients may have what is "medically necessary" but they must be able to prove medical necessity in court if they are arrested for going over the limits set by SB 420. Most legal experts in this field recommend that patients stay within the limits of Senate Bill 420 unless they have extensive medical documentation that proves a need for more medication.

Rights of Approved Medical Cannabis Patients - Updated January 2018

All rights under Proposition 215 passed in 1996 remain in effect under the new Adult Use of Marijuana Act (AUMA) passed in November 2016. Physician-approved patients and their designated primary caregivers have the right to possess and cultivate cannabis for their personal medical needs. Patients may legally possess and grow the amount needed for their treatment and are not subject to limits on quantity. There is no age limit on medical use. Minors under the age of 18 with serious and chronic illness can be approved for use of medical cannabis.

Approved medical cannabis patients pay lower taxes than those who are purchasing recreational cannabis. Medical cannabis patients who choose to sign up for the voluntary state medical marijuana ID card program are exempt from sales tax on medical cannabis products.

The state medical marijuana ID card program (called MMIC) is available only to approved patients with a letter from a physician.  You can apply for this card at the Department of Health in the county of your primary residence.  There is a fee for this card.  Once the state verifies your approval with your cannabis physician, you will receive the card and can show it at your dispensary to get the exemption on some of the taxes.  It is up to you if you want to apply for the state ID card as this is a voluntary, not mandatory, program.


I can sum up medical cannabis in four words: More effective, less toxic.

- Dr. Bonni Goldstein, MD