Using Medical Marijuana In California

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Scott C Thomas Criminal Defense Attorney California Medical Marijuana DUI

It never ceases to amaze me how often I hear people say that because they have a physician’s recommendation to use medical marijuana, or a Medical Marijuana Program Act ID card, they can smoke marijuana anywhere while doing anything…even while driving!  Before delving into the inaccuracies of the above statement, let me be crystal clear on one issue: possession of marijuana is illegal under Federal law and any advice rendered, applies only to California state law.

Before I explain where you can smoke medical marijuana legally in the state of California, perhaps it would be better to start by explaining where you cannot smoke medical marijuana.  Under California state law, you cannot smoke medical marijuana in any place where smoking is prohibited by law; in or within 1,000 feet of the grounds of a school, recreation center, or youth center, unless the medical use occurs within a residence; on a school bus; while in a motor vehicle that is being operated; or while operating a boat.  That being said you are free to smoke in any place that is not listed above.

However, one thing to be cognizant of is that it is not always easy to determine whether you are within 1,000 feet of a school, recreation center, or youth center.  That being said, it may be advisable to only use medical marijuana within the confines of your home, out of an abundance of caution.  Just because you can do something, does not necessarily mean you should, and smoking marijuana in public will certainly get the attention of any law enforcement officers who may be downwind.     

I can already hear people saying, “well it says you cannot smoke in a car that is being operated…so why not just pull over and box the car?  It’s not being ‘operated!’”  NO!  Bad idea!  I say this because, while the conduct may technically be lawful, you are exposing yourself to a potential DUI investigation.  If you are caught smoking in your car, even if not in operation, the first thing a police officer will do is try to determine if you were driving under the influence.  If the car is warm to the touch, or there are other indicia that the car was recently driven, the officer can certainly take you in for DUI based upon the circumstantial evidence.  Whether or not charges will be filed invariably depends on the facts of the case, but why even put yourself through this?

If you’re a qualified patient with a valid physician’s recommendation to use medical marijuana, or have a Medical Marijuana Program Act ID card, you have a lot of latitude, subject to the aforementioned restrictions, on just where you can toke up.  The question you have to ask yourself is whether or not it is worth a negative experience with law enforcement.  I mean come on, who really wants to deal with cops when they’re high?  Sometimes, it’s safer just to stay at home and get high on the couch!