Since 1996, Proposition 215 has allowed residents of California to use cannabis as medicine with a doctor’s recommendation. This law is called The Compassionate Use Act, and it has provided relief for and even saved the lives of countless seriously ill Californians.
But what happens if a patient is too sick to grow their own cannabis? Thankfully, California law has evolved to allow patients and those who provide their care to form a cannabis cooperative.
Cannabis cooperatives work much the same as any agricultural co-op. Patient caregivers grow enough cannabis to meet the needs of the members of the cooperative, and patients donate enough to cover the cost of production.
Are Cannabis Cooperatives Legal?
Yes. Cannabis cooperatives are legal under California state law, even though the Federal government still does not recognize cannabis as legal medicine. In fact, despite newly emerging evidence that cannabis effectively treats pain, life-threatening seizures in children, and even addiction disorders, it is still a Schedule 1 drug under Federal law.
Recent changes in Federal policy are ensuring that the more-than-half of states that have allowed compassionate use of, or outright legalized cannabis, will not face any interference from the Federal government. This is further ensured by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Their Tuesday, Aug. 16th, 2016, decision states that the Federal government can no longer prosecute cannabis users who are following their local state laws. So if both the cannabis cooperative and the patients operate within the boundaries of the law, it is perfectly safe and legal to obtain and use cannabis for medical use.
What Are the Laws in California?
This is a very complicated question as the laws surrounding both cannabis cooperatives and patients are changing rapidly due to recent legislative and activist efforts. In the past year and a half alone, the state of California’s legislature has passed dozens of laws pertaining to the use of cannabis and is even planning to fully legalize commercial sales with a new set of laws collectively called the MMRSA.
It is important to follow these laws if you are a patient, provider, or member of a cooperative because they will likely affect you and the rules directly surrounding your access to cannabis. Most of these rules greatly relax current restrictions that put current cannabis patients and providers at risk, but there are very strict new requirements for record-keeping, taxes, tracking of plants and production of edibles that carry steep penalties if they are misunderstood.
Therefore, it is best for patients to join a cannabis cooperative even if they produce some of their own medicine. In fact, patients who are members of cooperatives can donate their excess production so that other members of their community in need can benefit from the relief this plant provides, even if they can’t afford their own. All cannabis cooperatives have compassion programs, whether large or small, that help to care for the neediest patients in their communities.