Los Angeles Criminal Law Blog

Medicinal Marijuana: Police Officer was not an expert witness on unlawful possession, court rules

Posted on: January 13, 2008 at 4:22 p.m.

Los Angeles Criminal Lawyers frequently encounter cases where the possession of marjinuana is legally justified under California's Medical Marijuana initiative. The reason these cases are criminally filed is that the investigating police officers either ignore or do not understand the law justifying the legal possession of numerous ounces of marijuana, even if there is substantial money or scales nearby. As long as the possession is to treat a person's diagnosed medical condition, then it is completely lawful under California state law.

Criminal Defense in California courts must include pointed cross-examination of police officers' background, training, and experience in investigating not just drug sales cases, but specifically the experience officers have in medical marijuana cases. Just because an officer has many busts for cocaine, methamphematine, PCP, or ecstacy, does not make him an expert witness for legal opinions about whether the recovered marijuana is possessed for sale, in light of the California Medical Marijuana initiative.

Recently the Fourth District Court of Appeal found that police officers who have only limited experience dealing with people who possess marijuana legally do not have a sufficient basis to determine whether such persons intend to sell it. In a unanimous opinion, the court reversed a conviction for possessing marijuana for sale based on a lack of evidence, saying the police officer upon whose expert testimony the conviction was based had no expertise in differentiating between individuals who possess marijuana lawfully for their own consumption, and those who possess it unlawfully with the intent to sell. The court explained:

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Tania Bakar on May 25, 2009 at 11:55 a.m. wrote:

First of all I really disagree with the person who wrote the comment above. She said, 'I think there are probably other drugs out there that can help these people with their problems in which they use marijuana for. ' I am not sure if she has ever known or met a cancer patient. Cancer patients use marijuana for various reasons. They use it to relieve pain that brought on by the cancer and the effects of chemo, and to increase appetite. Chemo basically is a poison that kills off cells, not only the cancerous cells, there is collateral damage to the healthy cells. One of the effects is nausea, so a cancer patient doesn't usually have the desire to eat. Therefore, doctors have prescribed marijuana to stimulate and appetite for these patients. There have been studies that show it plays a role in making the patients outlook on their sickness more positive. This is very important for a cancer patient to have, or any patient with a disease to have. Ones outlook on their sickness can play a big role in getting better, or at least living a better life. The remarks made by the first commenter were someone not correctly states. Although that may be her opinion, she should not assume there are different drugs they can use. In fact, there are different drugs but those drugs have extremely bad side effects so ironically marijuana is the safest drug to use with the least amount of negative side effects. I think this law makes sense, it is important to acknowledge that tis treatment is legal for people who need it in California. Of course there are always going to be people who acquire 'legal marijuana' in an illegal way. However, this is to be expected and it could eventually be something that California police may attempt to control. In the meantime, I think this ruling is interesting and helpful to many. ALso, now police officers can focus on other things to help protect the citizens of California.

Bryan on July 9, 2008 at 1:45 p.m. wrote:

Weird. There are people who shouldn't be out there, that wants it illegal. Nor shall it be legal. Keep it out of legalitiy matters people. Why would I or should anyone for that matter, care about the possession of a 'plant.' Nobody is forcing you to smoke or eat MARIJUANA. You can never get rid of it because you need Rope for things. You need string for things. If you ask me, if you like it, ENJOY, IF NOT THEN STAY AWAY FROM IT. DON'T MAKE SOMEONE A CRIMINAL FOR WHAT THEY SMOKED OR ATE. If you can smoke Methamphetimine and die just as easy as a cigarette or alchol, then why ruin the buzz kill for people who actualy enjoy a smelly plant. You drag marijuana into all these legal matters. Have you ever stood in a field of Marijuana. I want too, but I can't because I know that everybody and there brother would want to kill me for it, if I had the chance to have my own garden. Nowdays, keep your bussiness to yourself and stop bugging others. To many complaints on other drugs are arising so focus on meth or crackheads or ghetto neiborhoods where Drugs is at. Just leave Poor old May Jane out of things. By the way I believe in the Marton Luther King days. STAND UP FOR YOURSELF FELLOW MARIJUANA USERS. JUST DON'T BE STUPID IF YOU HAVE IT. THOSE WHO ROB BANKS SHOULD BE IN PRISON AND THOSE WHO ARE COMMITING RAPE, HEROIN HEADS, PEOPLE LIKE THAT. THE LAW WILL ALWAYS BE THE SAME JUST LEAVE MARIJUANA ALONE! There is only one Earth, why can't we all get along. Focus on world issuse and have the world help themselves rather than destroying it with all this restriction laws! Bull pucky! NEVER LET ANYONE TELL YOU, YOU CAN'T DO IT! I WANT TO HAVE A PLANT DAMMIT. YOU ALL SUCK AND THE LAW WILL CONSUME YOU ALL. MARTIN LUTHER GOT JAILED BECAUSE OF HIS BELIEFS AND ONE DAY SOMEONE SHOOTS HIM. MANY HAVE GIVEN UP THIS FIGHT BUT I SURE AS HECK WON'T. DON'T BELIVE IN PEOPLES STATISTICS. MAKE YOUR OWN!

Kelsey Kernstine on May 29, 2008 at 4:22 p.m. wrote:

I disagree with the use and legalization of medical marijuana. I think there are probably other drugs out there that can help these people with their problems in which they use marijuana for. California is one if not the only state that allows Medical Marijuana. Why would California be one of the few to allow this? This does not make any sense to me; it just gives all the marijuana users out there as an easy way and legal way to obtain marijuana. Also, many of the doctors that prescribe these drugs to users are not necessarily doing it for the right reasons. I feel that many doctors just prescribe it for people that claim they have a problem when they really do not. How is a doctor supposed to determine how much a person

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