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Marijuana is still illegal on the Federal level. This means that you can still be criminally charged at the federal level even though some states have active medical marijuana laws.
California is the first of all states to legalize medical marijuana.
Proposition 215, aka The Compassionate Use Act went into effect November 5, 1996. It was the first medical marijuana bill and was modified by S.B. 420 which went into effect January 1, 2004.
Since then there have been 13 other states that have written laws about medical marijuana.
In California there is a voluntary patient registry system.
It is a highly good idea for you to register once you have your doctor's recommendation. It can help protect you if you find yourself caught in the gray zone of laws.
When you fill out the application have all necessary Identification Cards ready, and make sure to fully complete the applications. Most applications are denied due to incompleteness.
When you get your medical marijuana card which can range from
$65-$200 with a yearly renewal fee, you can then start growing your own
marijuana or go to a local
dispensary/clinic. Dispensary regulations vary city to city so beware of your local laws.
Ideally if you have a medical marijuana card in California you shall be exempt from arrest.
If you are charged with possession you are able to use the affirmative defense or dismissal, but only if you have had written recommendations from a doctor.
In the original state initiative, which cannot be amended by legislation, there is no limits to the quantity of marijuana that you can have, however the legislature later enacted quantity guidelines.
These guidelines are currently being reviewed by the courts as unconstitutional.