Safe Access Now Online Handbook
By Chris Conrad (c) 2004 , 2005, 2007
A guide to the production and use of medical marijuana
A common understanding of cannabis could prevent needless arrests and prosecutions, free up law enforcement to focus on serious crime, and save California’s communities millions of dollars. This booklet explains the basics of medical marijuana. Part I gives scientific facts about its uses, dosage and yields. Part II explains the legal setting. Part III offers a model Safe Access Now ordinance for guidelines, and Part IV gives details of several States’ laws. It also includes references and websites for the reader’s use.
The United States government has garnered some very useful research during its decades of experience in producing and providing medical marijuana. Its compassionate IND program has demonstrated that about six pounds of cannabis per year is a safe and effective dosage to alleviate chronic health problems, and also how to estimate garden yields. Ironically, federal law denies medical marijuana as a defense in court.
State law is a separate jurisdiction, however, and a laboratory for medical and legal reforms. Since state voters passed California’s medical marijuana law, Proposition 215, the 1996 initiative giving qualified people a legal right to cultivate and possess cannabis for medicine, courts have grappled with an issue left unresolved by the ballot mandate: How much medical marijuana is a reasonable supply?
In 2003, Senate Bill 420, now HS11362.7, sought to reduce arrests and provide better access by creating a voluntary ID card program, adding new legal protections for collective activities and distribution, and carving out a minimal safe harbor from arrest for qualified people. The amount protected is inadequate for many — eight ounces of dried mature processed flowers of female cannabis plant or the plant conversion plus six mature or 12 immature plants per patient. However, it also empowers doctors, cities, counties and the courts to protect greater amounts. Case law reiterates that those amounts are “a threshold, not a ceiling” and preserves the Prop 215 right to a reasonable supply of cannabis.
It is safest for patients and caregivers to stay within those quantities. Unfortunately, this is not always possible or practical. California patients with chronic ill health and safe access to high quality cannabis strains often smoke three pounds or more of “sinsemilla bud” per patient year, amid a broad range of dosages. Patients who eat cannabis or ingest it in other forms require several times as much raw material as the smoked dosage. Outdoor and indoor growers cultivate with very different garden techniques ranging from a few large plants to scores of much smaller plants.
Data in the federal Drug Enforcement Administration’s Cannabis Yields provides a scientific method that lets patients grow indoors or out in any format they wish, yet makes it easy to gauge the output. Safe Access Now proposes a compromise based on half the IND dosage plus a proportionate canopy area. That equates to a safe harbor per qualified patient of up to three pounds of bud and as many plants as fit within 100 square feet of garden canopy. Be they large or small, if the plants cumulative canopy covers less than that area, the garden is a reasonable size.
This system is simple, yet it works. It eliminates the need to train police to assess complicated medical needs, calculate yields, distinguish male plants from female or immature from mature flowering, determine what part of a crop is usable, or understand consumption, processing or storage. Counting plants is never required. To check compliance, all an officer needs is a scale and tape measure.
This booklet shows how and why those safe harbor guidelines can and should be expanded by localities, doctors, and by the legislature. You can help advance this process. Whether a patient, physician, policy maker, prosecutor, police officer, or concerned citizen, please take a stand for the principles of reason, compassion and the rule of law.
Special thanks to doctors Michael Alcalay MD, David Bearman MD, Philip Denney MD, Jeffrey Hergenrather MD, Claudia Jensen MD, Frank Lucido MD, Tod Mikuriya MD, Ethan Russo MD, and other physicians for review of medical issues; to Eric Sterling and attorneys Joe Elford, Omar Figueroa, William Logan, David Nick, Robert Raich and others for review of legal issues; and to Dr. Michael Baldwin, Andrew Glazier, Richard Muller, my wife Mikki Norris, SAN co-founder Ralph Sherrow, DrugSense, MPP, NORML and others for their help in researching, preparing and publishing this document. For more information on what you can do to help, visit these websites: chrisconrad.com or safeaccessnow.net.. Thank you.
– Chris Conrad, Court-qualified cannabis expert, November 2007
Notice: This website and information are not a substitute for medical care or legal counsel. It cannot list every law or court decision, but care has been taken to select and characterize key cases. This information is current as of August, 2007. Laws and rulings cited are subject to change or reinterpretation at any time.