The Effect of Other Drugs Being Present with Medical Marijuana

You can transport marijuana on behalf of a collective or cooperative! This is the basic holding in People v. Colvin and it is what the case is most cited for as precedent. However, there is an implied holding in Colvin whose legal significance is a product of misguided information in the community. That implied holding is that the presence of a non-marijuana related controlled substance, such as cocaine or psilocybin mushrooms, does not cause a person to then lose the protections under Proposition 215 (the Compassionate Use Act) on the marijuana related offense(s).

For some reason, many a District Attorney has indicated to me, often during plea negotiations, that the presence of other drugs along with marijuana somehow negates any medical marijuana claims or defenses for the marijuana. Even some clients have made similar statements during the course of our discussions. This is not correct.

To date, I have not been able to track down any specific source of this misinformation. At best guess, it is being disseminated by a combination of law enforcement officers who do not understand medical marijuana law in California, prosecutors who do not believe in medical marijuana, and/or simply misinformed community members.

First, nothing in the Compassionate Use Act, subsequent legislation, or case law stands for the legal precedent that the presence of a controlled substance other than marijuana, causes a person to lose the protections conferred by a doctor's recommendation.

Second, the case of People v. Colvin impliedly demonstrates that such an absurd rule does not exist. In that case, William Colvin was arrested for transporting marijuana form one dispensary (Hollywood Holistic 1) to another (Hollywood Holistic 2); both run by Mr. Colvin. Also, located in his vehicle was a personal possession quantity of cocaine and close to $5000 in cash. Colvin was charged with violating three felonies: Health & Safety Code 11359 (possession of marijuana for sell); Health & Safety Code 11360 (transportation of marijuana); and Health & Safety Code 11350 (possession of a controlled substance, cocaine). At trial, he was convicted of all three felonies. As most know, the California Court of Appeals then overturned both of his marijuana related felony convictions because the trial court did not allow the jury to determine if his actions were within the scope of the Compassionate Use Act & Medical Marijuana Program Act. At the same time, the Court of Appeals upheld Colvin's conviction for possession of cocaine. Clearly, if possessing the cocaine had the legal effect of negating any medical marijuana claim, the court would simply have upheld all three convictions.

Further, On May 23, 2012, the California Supreme Court denied Kamala Harris', California's current Attorney General, petition to have the high court (no pun intended) review the appellate court's reversal of his convictions for the marijuana related crimes.

Although thankfully, the vast majority of prosecutors I have worked with or against do not believe such a notion, it is troubling that such an idea has made it into the community where sometimes people tend to rely more on word of mouth than a qualified lawyer for what is and is not legal conduct. Hopefully, Colvin puts this notion to rest for good.

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Compassionate Use Act (Proposition 215)

Medical Marijuana Program Act (Proposition 420)

People v. Colvin (2012) 203 Cal. App. 4th 1029