Hashish Is Medical Marijuana, Attorney General Says

By Kenneth Ofgang, Staff Writer

Concentrated cannabis, or hashish, is included within the meaning of “marijuana” and may be used for medical purposes under Proposition 215, Attorney General Bill Lockyer said.

In and opinion made public yesterday, Lockyer told Mendocino County Sheriff-Coroner Anthony J. Craver that voters must have intended to include all forms of cannabis when they passed the “Compassionate Use Act of 1996.”

Lockyer was a staunch backer of the measure, whose implementation has been difficult because federal authorities continue to enforce conflicting federal law that recognizes no legitimate uses for cannabis.

Hashish is distinguished by it’s high level of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, the most active pharmacological ingredient in marijuana. Ordinary marijuana has a THC level of between 5 and 60 percent, while the concentrated form may have a THC level of as high as 70 percent.

The attorney general noted that under Proposition 215, if a patient or caregiver “possesses or cultivates marijuana for the patient’s medical purposes upon the recommendation or approval of a physician,” that person is exempt from prosecution under Health and Safety Code Secs. 11357 and 11358.

Sec. 11357 makes possession of hashisha “wobbler,” punishable by up to three years in prison, and makes possession of up to 28.5 grams of marijuana, “other than concentrated cannabis,” a misdemeanor carrying a fine of no more than $100. An exception is made for possession of ordinary marijuana on school grounds, which carries a fine of up to $500 and/or a maximum of 10 days in jail.

Sec. 11358 makes cultivation of marijuana, in any form, a felony punishable by up to three years in prison. The statutory definition of marijuana for purposes of Proposition 215 “plainly includes concentrated cannabis,” Lockyer wrote. There is no reason to interpret “marijuana” differently in Proposition 215 than in other laws, the attorney general explained, adding that had the authors of the initiative intended to exclude hashish from the definition, they would have used language similar to the “other than concentrated cannabis” phrase in Sec. 11357.

“Of course, if concentrated cannabis were not ‘marijuana’ in the first instance, there would be no need in section 11357 to employ the phrase ‘other than concentrated cannabis'” the attorney general explained. He added that there was nothing in the ballot materials for the initiative that indicated an intent to treat hashish in a different manner than the less potent forms of the drug.

The Opinion, No. 03-411,
prepared for Lockyer by Deputy Attorney General Gregory L. Gonot.
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company

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