Los Angeles Criminal Law Blog

Medical Marijuana: State vs. Federal

Posted on: December 8, 2009 at 2:29 a.m.

A new federal policy under the Obama administration has raised a lot of questions and concern among marijuana users throughout the country, particularly in California. The new policy states that the federal government will not seek to arrest medical marijuana users and suppliers as long as they conform to state laws, a departure from tough federal marijuana laws under the Bush administration. The irony of this new policy lies in one of California’s largest cities; Los Angeles medical marijuana dispensaries were once plentiful and the city, along with the state of California, was an advocate for legalized marijuana use. Around the time that the federal policy was announce, however, Los Angeles began to tighten its grip on medical marijuana dispensaries, in a puzzling display of role reversal. This polarization of opinion on behalf of Los Angeles has left many users in limbo when it comes to the legality of marijuana. The recent crackdowns on medical marijuana dispensaries seem to back track the cities stand on the issue before the federal policy was put into place, leaving users even more confused than before.

Unfortunately, there is still ambiguity within Los Angeles county laws on marijuana use and that has people scratching their heads on the legality of their activities. In Los Angeles, you are technically allowed to have small amounts of marijuana for personal use, but that all depends on which enforcement agency finds them on you. Medical marijuana use is legal in California, so state and city law enforcement agents might not arrest you for possession in your own home. If, however, you are found to have marijuana outside of your home, you might be arrested and charged with a misdemeanor drug possession offense. The sentencing aspect of a marijuana arrest provides even more leeway and confusion to offenders, if you are a first time offender you can forego tougher sentences by enrolling in a drug treatment program and by completing the program and avoiding being arrested or convicted your record is wiped clean.

This ambiguity in laws and sentencing techniques can leave anyone baffled, but an experienced Los Angeles drug defense attorney can help you navigate through all of the confusion of medical marijuana laws. The experienced defense lawyers at Kestenbaum, Eisner & Gorin, LLP can help you sort through the drug laws in Los Angeles and will work on your behalf to minimize your sentence or have your case dismissed.

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Medical Marijuana Dispensary Battles

Posted on: November 11, 2009 at 7:12 p.m.

A particularly contentious area of the law for Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys is medical marijuana law. While medical marijuana was legalized in Los Angeles and the rest of the state, law enforcement (both state and federal) continue to raid medical marijuana dispensaries. In fact, this battle is taking place throughout the state of California.

Arguments over medical marijuana use, as well as in other cities, are heating up all over California. By some accounts, there are more medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles than there are Starbucks and 7/11 stores. In Fresno, the fight over medical marijuana has recently been focusing on zoning laws and the overlap of legal jurisdiction between the city, state and national government. Fresno recently adopted zoning laws that effectively prohibit medical marijuana dispensaries from operating in city limits. Federal policy technically makes the use of marijuana illegal, even for medical purposes. The Obama administration, however, has taken a less forceful track than the Bush administration, saying it will not prosecute medical marijuana dispensaries or the patients who use it in states where it is legal by state law.

Fresno’s nine recognized marijuana dispensaries have been ordered to close their doors while lawyers hash out their legality in court. In 2006, Fresno very obviously attempted to ban dispensaries within city limits by drafting zoning laws that specified that all marijuana dispensaries must comply with both state and federal laws in order to operate. Since federal law prohibits marijuana dispensaries, no dispensary could fully comply and remain open legally. Opponents of the use of marijuana for medical purposes argue that Fresno’s zoning laws banning marijuana dispensaries are supported by federal law, which supersedes state law. Those in favor of medical marijuana argue that states’ rights and California state law should prevail, keeping the dispensaries open. Trial in the case has been set for January, 2010. In the meantime, opponents of the dispensaries have asked the presiding judge for a temporary restraining order that would shutter all of the city’s dispensaries until after the trial. The order was granted on October 28th. Attorneys for the city’s nine dispensaries will appeal the decision in an attempt to keep the dispensaries open until the trial begins.

Medical marijuana policies are likewise subject to the same confusion. While city zoning laws have not gone so far as to ban marijuana dispensaries, possession, sale or the manufacture of marijuana for medical purposes may still get you arrested, depending on the law enforcement agency that arrests you. With such a complicated criminal matter, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney by your side.

Tagged as: los angeles medical marijuana attorney, los angeles medical marijuana dispensary

President Obama's Marijuana Policy Changes

Posted on: March 9, 2009 at 8:02 a.m.

If there is an area of criminal law in Los Angeles that regularly frustrates Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys it is the area of law regarding medical marijuana. Medical marijuana lawyers are constantly battling between state and federal regulations, and during the Bush Administration there were major challenges. Now however, under President Obama, the policy regarding medical marijuana in Los Angeles may have taken a major turn.

With the recent change in presidents comes a very big shift in attitude towards marijuana. In late February of this year, newly-appointed Attorney General Eric Holder stated that President Obama intended to end many of the practices the Bush administration had used in regard to marijuana patients and providers.

Under the Bush administration, federal law enforcement officials can and did frequently arrest marijuana users and providers, as well as raid medical marijuana dispensaries, even in states like California where they were legal under state law. President Obama intends to honor states rights by allowing the 13 states that currently allow marijuana use for medical purposes to continue to do so without fear of federal law enforcement intervention.

While President Obama strictly maintains that he is not in favor of legalizing marijuana, a White House statement issued several weeks ago stated "The President believes that federal resources should not be used to circumvent state laws," and is expected to appoint new members for his drug policy team that are of the same opinion. The new presidents administration is expected to encourage each state to determine their own policies regarding marijuana and its use, which is a clear departure from policies in the Bush administration.

Unlike the previous president, Obama intends to mostly treat the majority of drug use as a health issue instead of a criminal justice issue, a sentiment he often voiced during his campaign for the presidency. The implications of this policy change could reach far and wide in California where it is currently a misdemeanor to be found in possession of marijuana and a felony to be found manufacturing or distributing the substance without a medical exemption.

With the application of federal law somewhat in flux, marijuana-related criminal charges in California require some delicate handling. If you have been charged with a crime relating to marijuana, contact a qualified criminal defense attorney immediately to begin reviewing the facts of your case.

With 50 years criminal defense experience, Kestenbaum, Eisner & Gorin specializes in successfully defending charges related to the Sales and Transportation of Marijuana (Penal Code Section 11360), Possession for Sale (Penal Code Section 11359), and Possession (Penal Code Section 11357). Our Los Angeles medical marijuana law firm has been recognized as a Top 5% U.S. Law Firm based on peer reviews from other attorneys, judges, and prosecutors, in the area of legal ethics, professionalism, and judgment. We have vast experience in defending all criminal matters including drug cases involving very large quantities of marijuana.

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