CA NORML Legislative News

Gov. Davis Signs Medical Marijuana Task Force Bill - SB 420

Medical Marijuana Advocates Oppose Last-Minute 6-Plant Cultivation Guideline, But Support Other Provisions in Bill

Text of bill SB 420

SACRAMENTO, Oct. 12, 2003. Gov. Davis signed Sen. Vasconcellos' medical marijuana task force bill, SB 420, which would establish state Prop. 215 enforcement guidelines.

The bill was marred by a flurry of controversy over a last-minute amendment setting Prop. 215 cultivation guidelines of 6 mature or 12 immature plants plus one-half pound of processed cannabis per patient. The guidelines would not be legally binding limits for the purposes of determining guilt or innocence, but are intended to provide guidance for when police can make arrests.

SB 420 would establish a voluntary identification card system to protect patients and caregivers from arrest throughout the state. The card, which is modeled on the San Francisco ID system in order to protect patient privacy, would protect against arrest for not only possession and cultivation, but also transportation and other related charges for persons adhering to specified guidelines.

As originally proposed, SB 420 would have had the guidelines set by the State Dept. of Health Services pursuant to public hearings. However, this idea was opposed by the Davis administration on the grounds it would be too costly and burdensome on DHS. In order to save the bill, Sen. Vasconcellos negotiated a last-minute compromise with Attorney General Bill Lockyer, setting guidelines of 1/2 pound of marijuana and up to 6 mature or 12 immature plants.

Medical marijauana advocates strongly opposed the guidelines as arbitrary and inadequate for many patients. Instead, they pushed for more liberal guidelines like those adopted in Sonoma County, which allow up to 3 pounds and 99 plants within 100 square feet.

However supporters of SB 420 argue that the guidelines are not a ceiling on what patients can have, but rather a floor beneath which they will be protected from arrest. They point out that SB 420 does not and cannot limit the amount of medicine patients may legally have or grow, since Prop. 215 gives them the right to as much as they need for their personal medical use. Under SB 420, patients with state cards who adhered to the guidelines would be protected from arrest, which they are not under current law. On the other hand, patients who exceeded the guidelines would be subject to arrest, but would still retain their full Prop. 215 rights in court.

As additional protections, SB 420 specifies that patients can exceed the guidelines if their physician says that is necessary, and permits local jurisdictions to enact more liberal guidelines if they wish.

In other provisions, SB 420:

SB 420 takes effect on Jan. 1, 2004.

Although medical marijuana activists were sharply divided on SB 420, the bill was widely viewed as a test of support for medical marijuana by the state legislature. SB 420 passed the Assembly 42-32 and the State Senate 24-14, with medical marijuana supporters voting solidly in favor, and opponents against. The vote was largely on party lines, with just two Republicans, Sen. Bruce McPherson (Santa Cruz) and Sen. Tom McClintock (1000 Oaks) voting in favor of SB 420, while four Democrats opposed: Sen. Dean Florez (Fresno) and Assemblymembers Barbara Matthews (Tracy), Nicole Parra (Fresno) and Lou Correa (Santa Ana).

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