Pubdate: Wed, 04 May 2005
Source: San Diego City Beat (CA)
Copyright: 2005 San Diego City Beat
Author: Barbara MacKenzie, Steve McWilliams
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


Past issues of CityBeat contained advertisements alerting readers to 
businesses offering to facilitate a client's obtaining of a 
physician's recommendation/approval to use medical marijuana under 
the Compassionate Use Act of 1996. By law, the physician's letter of 
approval is all the evidence a patient needs to present to law 
enforcement and the courts for use as an "affirmative defense" from 
prosecution for the possession and cultivation of marijuana. This 
same physician's letter will be required to obtain the state ID card 
when it is issued by the county Board of Health.

The sale of marijuana is not sanctioned in the law and has been ruled 
against in both state and federal court. In the event a patient has 
an encounter with state law enforcement, the patient must "assert an 
affirmative defense" to charges of possessing and growing cannabis by 
presenting the doctor's approval letter. Under questioning, patients 
will often be asked by police officers, with no medical education, to 
describe intimate or clinical health details regarding their use of 
medical marijuana and other medications.

Law enforcement officers, prosecutors and judges may question the 
approving physician to determine, for example: what are the 
physician's qualifications, how long and how often has the doctor 
seen the patient in the office, what is the clinical diagnosis, what 
kind of examinations and tests have been performed, what other 
medications and treatments have been tried? If a good faith 
relationship between the physician and patient cannot be demonstrated 
to the court's satisfaction, the patient, now also likely a 
defendant, may be denied a "Prop 215 defense" in court and may then 
face trial as a common drug criminal.

Letters of recommendation/approval signed by out-of-town doctors are 
immediately suspect. Letters signed by physician assistants have been 
rejected by the San Diego District Attorney's Office and should not 
be trusted to keep a patient out of jail, while pre-signed copies of 
the physician letter issued by office staff at a strip mall are 
simply invitations to trouble. Jail. Prison.

The physician's conduct and role in the process is critically 
important to the patient's attempt to comply with the law, stay safe 
and avoid prosecution. To help ensure that, the U.S. Supreme Court 
has let stand an order from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals (Conant 
v. Walters) that protects doctors who recommend marijuana to their 
patients. Knowing about this protection, patients and their doctors 
feel freer to talk openly and honestly about the many benefits 
cannabis provides. Doctors soon learn that they have many patients 
that quietly use marijuana for a number of ailments. A letter from 
that doctor will stand up in any court, and that's the point here.

Don't look for cheap fixes or shortcuts to keep you safe and well. 
You can get information about the Compassionate Use Act, physician 
approval forms, lists of conditions cannabis helps to treat, 
information about the city of San Diego's medical marijuana 
guidelines by contacting us at  or 619-528-1850.

Barbara MacKenzie, Steve McWilliams

Shelter From the Storm