Online supplement: Introduction to the 2005 edition

Since the 1996 passage of California’s medical marijuana law, Proposition 215, counties have grappled with the key issue left unresolved in the measure: How much is a reasonable amount.

The federal government has decades of experience in producing and providing medical marijuana and has studied garden yields. Its IND medical marijuana program has shown that more than six pounds of marijuana per year is a safe and effective dosage. California patients more typically use up to half that amount, or three pounds of cannabis bud per year.

What size garden is therefore appropriate? The answer must consider several variables.

1) Every garden is different.

2) Grown outdoors, plants can get large. An exceptional garden can yield many pounds of cannabis bud with just a few huge plants.

3) The common “Sea of Green” indoor garden uses scores or hundreds of very small plants to yield a few pounds.

4) Different growers get different yields using the same techniques.

Data published in the federal Drug Enforcement Administration’s Cannabis Yields, provides a scientific method to let patients grow indoors or out in any format they wish, yet makes it easy to gauge the output. That is the essence of the Safe Access Now guidelines: allow 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. Nothing is perfect, but SAN guidelines can realistically protect most patients with a minimum of problems. Patients, doctors, district attorneys, courts and juries across the state have followed these model medical marijuana guidelines.

This system is simple, yet it works. It eliminates the need to train police to assess complicated medical needs, calculate yields, distinguish male from female or vegetative from flowering plants, determine what part of a crop is usable, or understand consumption, processing and storage. Counting plants is never required. To check compliance, all a field officer needs is a scale and tape measure. Any excess may be confiscated or spared, based on circumstances such as the presence of a physician’s statement that they use more.

This booklet explains the basics of medical marijuana. Part I gives basic facts about dosage and yields. Part II is a Safe Access Now model ordinance for guidelines. Part III explains the legal setting, and Part IV gives excerpts from state law. We also include reference groups and websites for the reader.

A common understanding of medical marijuana could prevent needless arrests and prosecutions, free up law enforcement to focus on serious crime, and save California’s communities millions of dollars that are desperately needed for schools, libraries and vital programs. Reasonable guidelines are good for everyone.

SB 420, HS 11367, set a minimum safe harbor from arrest at eight ounces of dry cannabis bud or conversion plus six mature or 12 immature plants per patient, an inadequate amount for many patients. It does, however, empower doctors, cities, counties and courts to protect caregivers and patients who use more. This booklet shows how much cannabis patients can reasonably consume why and guidelines should be expanded. Safe Access Now proposes a scientific compromise, based on canopy area, that really works.

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.

For more information on what you can do, visit the SAN website:

Thank you.

Chris Conrad

Notice: This book is not a substitute for legal or medical counsel. Laws and rulings cited are subject to change at any time. This booklet is current as of July, 2005. For updates, visit us online at:

Special thanks to attorneys David Nick, Omar Figueroa, William Logan, Robert Raich and Joe Elford for their editorial review of legal issues; and to the Marijuana Policy Project, Ralph Sherrow, Michael Baldwin, Andrew Glazier, Mikki Norris and many others for their help in researching, preparing and publishing this document.

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