Thursday, September 24, 2015

Buccaneer Days Returns to Catalina Island -- Retain a Good Lawyer Now

It's that time of year again!  Buccaneer Weekend will descend on Catalina Island October 1-4, 2015.  The annual festival marks the unofficial end of tourist season and the official beginning of spiny lobster season.

The holiday is traditionally celebrated with lots of alcohol and very few clothes.  The influx of weekend revelers brings a boon to local businesses, including criminal defense attorneys (such as myself).

This year's party will include 4 days of live bands, DJs, dancing, an adult costume contest, an adult treasure hunt and boatloads of beer.  With so many great ways to get yourself into trouble, you'd be smart to save this number now: (714) 505-2468.

If you are cited for any misdemeanor on or near Catalina Island, you will be given a court date and ordered to appear back on the island in a couple months for your arraignment.  You cannot simply appear in Long Beach at your convenience, despite whatever bad legal advice you might hear.

In most cases, I can make your court appearances for you.  I can save you the time, hassle and expense of traveling all the way back to Catalina for a series of hearings.  As your attorney, I will appear in court on your behalf for your arraignment (your first court appearance).  At the arraignment, the court will provide me with a copy of the police report and other discovery that the DA plans to use against you.  I will enter a plea of "not guilty" and I will schedule another court appearance 4-6 weeks later.  This gives me plenty of time to review the evidence, conduct any investigation that needs to be done, discuss the facts of the case with you, and decide on a plan of action.

When I return to court for the next scheduled appearance, the DA and I will begin the process of trying to reach a mutually-agreeable deal to resolve your matter.  Depending on the unique facts of your case, a "mutually-agreeable deal" can mean a lot of things.  I will make as many appearances as it takes to ensure that your case is handled properly.  Our priority is always to help you reach the most favorable outcome possible -- and to save you some time and money in the process.

The Catalina courthouse is completely unlike most local courts.  It consists of a single room with one judge and a small staff.  It is highly advantageous to use a lawyer who understands the strange system that they have in place and who knows "how things are done" on the island.  We have an excellent relationship with the prosecutors who are responsible for handling all criminal matters on the island.  This helps us make great deals on behalf of our clients.

If you or a loved one is cited at Buccaneer Days on Catalina Island this year, call us for a free consultation.  The number is above, but here it is one more time:  (714) 505-2468.  Ask for John.

Thanks for reading.

Catalina Island Lawyer

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Everything You Know About Medical Marijuana in California is Wrong

The California Legislature has approved a trio of new laws that will completely change the way we regulate medical marijuana in the Golden State.  Forget everything that you thought you knew.

The new package of bills will collectively be called, "The Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act".  It will create a comprehensive new system to govern virtually every aspect of California's medical marijuana industry. Growers, transporters, testers / inspectors, distributors and retail sales shops will all be required to hold specific state-issued licenses.  It also establishes a Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation within the Department of Consumer Affairs to enforce the new legislation.

If signed into law by Gov. Brown, the MMRSA will take effect on January 1, 2016.  Experts predict that it could take another year for the state to create the necessary infrastructure to actually begin implementing the law.  In the meantime, dispensaries that are currently operating in compliance with state and local laws may continue to do so until their new applications have been approved or denied.

The MMRSA will create a system by which state regulators will be able to track all medical marijuana, from cultivation to consumption.  It will require growers to send their finished products to licensed distributors.  The distributors will be responsible for having the cannabis tested and inspected at licensed facilities before sending it on to retailers.

Growers will be limited to one acre for outdoor cultivation or 22,000 square feet for indoor grow operations.

Under the old system, "vertical integration" had been mandatory -- a dispensary must cultivate, transport and distribute its own cannabis.  The new scheme actually limits the ability of license-holders to do so by placing restrictions on the number and type of permits that a single entity may hold.

The MMRSA will allow for-profit sales of marijuana for the first time.  It also contains a provision for licensing manufacturers who produce concentrates using volatile solvents, which is illegal under existing law.

Currently, collectives that operate in accordance with state law are shielded from prosecution under HS 11362.775 (also known as "SB-420", or "The Medical Marijuana Program Act").  The new scheme includes a sunset clause for these provisions.  HS 11362.775 will expire one year after the first new licenses are issued.

The MMRSA includes regulations for doctors who issue recommendations for medical marijuana. The medical board will now assign special priority to investigating physicians who repeatedly and excessively recommend marijuana to patients without first conducting an examination in good faith. Doctors will be prohibited from accepting or offering any sort of remuneration to or from a license-holder in which the doctor or a family member has a financial interest.

California is in dire need of a coherent, comprehensive regulatory scheme that protects patients and cannabis providers without imposing undue red tape and expenses.  The current state of affairs is not sustainable.  The multi-million-dollar market for medical marijuana in California no longer fits within the regulatory framework that the legislature envisioned when it passed SB-420.  Current laws are unclear and subject to conflicting interpretations by different judges in different courts. Federal prosecutors have said that they will not interfere with local operations that are "in clear and unambiguous" compliance with their state laws.  Unfortunately, nobody is in "clear and unambigious" compliance with medical marijuana laws in California because those laws are ambiguous and unclear in their meaning.

It remains to be seen whether or not this proposed system will help patients obtain their medical marijuana safely and affordably.  If the system is implemented in an efficient and effective manner, it could provide greater protection and reduce uncertainty for everyone involved in California's growing medical marijuana industry.  If the system is poorly managed or laden with excessive costs and bureaucratic ineptitude, it may drive consumers back to the black market, where no standards exist to ensure patient safety.

Stay tuned to see what happens when Californians vote to legalize recreational marijuana use next year...

Special thanks to OC NORML for contributing to my research.  

Santa Ana Cannabis Lawyer

Thursday, September 10, 2015

HS 11362.79: Smoking Medical Marijuana in a Vehicle

As I've previously written on this blog, California laws provide some limited protections for patients who use medical marijuana with a doctor's approval or recommendation.  Generally,  patients and their caregivers may cultivate enough marijuana for their own personal use.  They may possess, transport and consume marijuana, even in some public places.  Under some circumstances, they may even sell it to other qualified patients.

Keep in mind, however, that you will be arrested if you are caught smoking medical marijuana in a vehicle that is being operated.  Similarly, you may not operate a vehicle while you are impaired by marijuana, even if you have a doctor's recommendation to possess and use the drug for medical purposes.

More information on marijuana DUI cases available here.

Sections 11362 et seq. of the California Health & Safety Code outline the various protections that are afforded to qualified medical marijuana patients.  It also defines the limits of those protections. Some of the nuances pertain to operating motor vehicles.

Section 11362.79 specifically says that, "Nothing in this article shall authorize a qualified engage in the smoking of medical marijuana...while in a motor vehicle that is being operated."

The code section includes awkward wording that essentially means, "these laws should not be interpreted as guaranteeing the right to consume medical marijuana in a vehicle."  That part is clear. Here's the rub: there is no law that specifically prohibits smoking marijuana in a vehicle.

If you are caught smoking medical marijuana in a vehicle, the DA will charge you with at least 2 crimes: 1) VC 23152(f) Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana, and 2) HS 11362.79(d) Smoking medical marijuana in a vehicle.  I do not believe that this second charge is proper.  Here's my reasoning:

HS 11362.79(d) says that the law does not specifically create the right to smoke medical marijuana in a vehicle, but it also does not specifically prohibit that act.  That section does not indicate the penalty for its violation.  It doesn't even indicate whether the act of smoking in a vehicle is an infraction or a misdemeanor.

Since this code section includes the phrase "medical marijuana", it only applies to qualified patients and not to people who smoke non-medical marijuana in a moving vehicle. That's obviously absurd because the legislature did not intent to treat medical marijuana patients more harshly than non-patients who smoke marijuana in the car.

For these reasons, I do not believe that it's appropriate to treat violations of HS 11362.79(d) as misdemeanors.  I understand that the District Attorney's office disagrees with me. They will continue to file misdemeanor charges in these types of cases until we get some better guidance from appellate courts.

In the meantime, our office is prepared to fight criminal charges involving marijuana in vehicles. We have extensive experience with marijuana DUI cases (sometimes called "DUID", or "VC 23152(f)").  We're also experts in the areas of search & seizure law, medical defenses, and police misconduct.

If you or a loved one is accused of a crime involving marijuana in a vehicle, call us for a free consultation.  (714) 505-2468.  Ask for John.

Thanks for reading.

Orange County Marijuana Lawyer