Iconic Drug Legislations in California

by RyanD on March 6, 2013

California is often considered the leading state in drug legislation. California has plenty of legislation that has reached national attention. Two of the most important legislation decisions of recent times have been the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 and the decriminalization of marijuana. Both have had a significant impact on the whole nation, not just the state of California.

Compassionate Use Act of 1996

When discussing iconic drug legislation in California, the most famous decision is the Compassionate Use Act of 1996. The law allowed seriously ill state residents to use marijuana for medical purposes. In accordance, people with various conditions such as arthritis, cancer, HIV and AIDS, epilepsy, chronic pain, and other conditions could grow and use marijuana with physician approval.

Reason for National Attention

This legislation hit a wall when two citizens, although following California law, were arrested by federal drug enforcement agents. The first was Angel Raich, who suffered from more than ten serious and possibly life-threatening medical conditions including an inoperable brain tumor. The second was Diane Monson, who was battling chronic spinal pain. According to Epstein and Walker the agents concluded that these two citizens violated the federal Controlled Substances Act. They joined together to sue Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and the case of Gonzales v. Raich was heard in the Supreme Court.

Supreme Court Ruling

The Supreme Court ruled that under the Commerce Clause of the Constitution, the law enforcement agents could arrest and convict the citizens. The reasoning was that while it was not against the law in California, there would be no way to regulate whether or not the drug would travel over the state line thus effecting interstate commerce.

Why it is Iconic

Although the Supreme Court ruled that the federal government’s laws would trump state law in this respect, the law was never overturned in California. This was the first piece of legislation that allowed the use of marijuana and many other states soon followed California’s lead.

Decriminalization of Marijuana

In September 2010, SB 1449 was signed into law. This law decriminalized the possession of marijuana. Decriminalizing does not make the drug legal, it merely made the act of possessing an ounce or less of marijuana an infraction, much like a parking ticket.

After Effects

Despite his opposition to the use of marijuana, Governor Schwarzenegger agreed this law was needed to put tax payer dollars to better use. Now that possessing less than an ounce of marijuana does not constitute jail time, the police force can better focus their energy on more serious crimes. The first time the state had decriminalized marijuana, from 1976 to 1985, California saved nearly one billion dollars in court costs and drug enforcement costs.

Both of these legislations have paved for the way for other states to create drug legislation. After the Compassionate Use Act, many other states passed a use of medical marijuana legislation. The legislation that decriminalized marijuana in California led to several positive reasons to support the decriminalization of marijuana in other states.

This article was written together with Robert Tritter, an avid writer of law-related articles throughout the web. They write this on behalf of Michael S. Berg, a Drug Crime Lawyer in San Diego. For the very finest in attorney representation, make sure to check his website and contact him.




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