COMMENTARY BY SAN DIEGO CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER, SAM SPITAL:
“On January 24, 2013, according to the UT San Diego electronic news, U.S. District Judge Irma Gonzalez sentenced 32 year old Joshua Hester after a guilty plea to more than eight years in Federal Prison for money laundering, maintaining a drug-related business, conspiracy to distribute more than a ton of marijuana, and other charges. The Federal Government lawyer argued and the Judge agreed in imposing the sentence that Hester operated a multi-million dollar business in two medical marijuana dispensaries and used the state law to seemingly shield his operations for dealing in the sale of illegal drugs.
In 1996, Proposition 215 was passed in California as an Initiative (commonly known as the Compassionate Use Act of 1996. The purposes of the Act are to ensure seriously ill individuals have the right to obtain and use marijuana for medical purposes as long as the medical use is deemed appropriate and has been recommended by a physician who has determined the health of such individuals will benefit from the use of marijuana in the treatment of medical disorders and diseases such as cancer, AIDS, chronic pain and arthritis, migraine headaches and/or any other illness for which marijuana is deemed to provide relief.
Essentially, under California law, one can use marijuana for medicinal purposes as long as there is a recommendation by a physician. In addition, the Medical Marijuana Program (MMP) was established in 2003, pursuant to Senate Bill number 420 that was passed as an extension and clarification to provide qualified patients and their caregivers a registration program and the issuance of a voluntary medical marijuana identification card. The problem is that since 1972, the United States Congress has listed marijuana in Schedule I of the federal Controlled Substances Act, which means that it has no accepted medical use and is illegal under Federal law. Since that time, however, 17 of states and the District of Columbia have legalized the medical use of marijuana given the opinion that medical marijuana dispensaries are operated for the public good to serve those who are seriously ill and as such have found relief from marijuana. The debate will continue as long as there is a conflict in State and Federal law.”