Monday, April 24, 2017

How to Legally Grow Marijuana in California

If you want to grow marijuana in California (and you care about doing it legally), the first step is to stop taking bad advice from your friends. There's a lot of misinformation out there. Despite the recent reforms, people are still calling my office because they've been arrested for some marijuana crime. Cannabis cultivation can be a minefield if you don't understand the law.

A whole new regulatory system is scheduled to take effect after 1/1/18, but here's what you need to know until then. As of today (4/24/17), there are a few ways to legally* grow cannabis in California. Adults age 21 and older may cultivate up to 6 plants for their personal, recreational consumption.  The 6-plant limit applies to each piece of property, not to each adult.  If 3 adults live together in one house, they may collectively cultivate 6 plants in their backyard, not 18.  They can give away small amounts of their crop to friends, but they're still not allowed to sell recreational cannabis or trade it for anything of value.

If you have a doctor's recommendation to use medical marijuana, the 6-plant limit does not apply. You may cultivate as much as your doctor says that you need for your condition. Be very wary, though, of so-called "99-Plant" recommendations that many doctors sell for a few extra dollars. Remember that a rec is only as valuable as the doctor who will actually come to court and testify on your behalf. Do you really trust that your doctor that will show up in court and tell the judge that he examined you in good faith? Do you believe he will testify that, in his professional opinion, you need 99 plants for your personal use?

Also keep in mind that there is no such thing as a "cultivation license" in California today. This will change after 1/1/18, when some provisions of Prop. 63 take effect, but no licenses have been issued to date. Regardless of whatever bad legal advice your doctor gave you, his 99-plant recommendation does not entitle you to grow a large crop or to sell your excess harvest to a local dispensary. There is a legal way to grow medical marijuana for sale (keep reading), but you should not simply rely on your doctor's 99-plant rec as a defense to marijuana charges.

All marijuana sales must still be done through a non-profit medical dispensary. Dispensaries can take many forms -- unincorporated associations, agricultural collectives, or nonprofit mutual benefit corporations (this is the most common form and the method that the California Attorney General recommends). Call us if you have questions about the best formation for your cannabusiness.

A buyer and seller of medical marijuana must be members of the same dispensary; sales from one entity to another entity (or from one club to another club, or from one freelance grower to a collective, etc.) is still illegal. If you want to grow for a medical dispensary, you must be a member of that dispensary, and you should have some written documentation to that effect. You should either be employed by the dispensary as a grower, or else you should have a written contract between yourself and the dispensary wherein you agree to provide cannabis and the club agrees to pay you a salary.

As mentioned above, dispensaries must be operated on a non-profit basis, but they're allowed to pay salaries to employees. As the designated grower, the club can reimburse for you for your expenses (electricity, materials, nutrients, etc.), and they can pay you a salary for the fair market value of your labor. This number might be up for debate, but it must be "reasonable". If your salary is excessive, the court could find that it represents a "profit", and profiting from medical marijuana sales is still illegal. Makes sense?

If you or a loved one has questions about legally growing marijuana in California, call us for a free attorney consultation. (714) 449-3335. Ask for John.

Thanks for reading.

*Cultivating any amount of cannabis remains completely illegal under federal law.  There's no such thing as "medical marijuana" in federal court.

Orange County Marijuana Lawyer