Every week I get calls from medical cannabis patients who purchased so-called grower’s licenses from shady pot doctors only to get arrested for growing or selling cannabis. I have to explain to them that the grower’s license does not protect them the way they think it does and the $100-250 they spent was a ripoff.

Fortunately, many of these patients do have protection from prosecution by using the collective cultivation defense which is not something a doctor can provide.

The only source for this defense comes from the collective itself. If you really want a piece of paper to protect yourself, you can use what is commonly known as a collective cultivation authorization or vendor authorization. This is a document that shows a patient is a member of the collective growing for other members of the collective. Some collectives offer this document free to their member vendors. Others do not and vendors must provide their own authorization for the collective to sign. This way you will get your piece of paper and legal advice. Much better protection than a bogus letter from a shady doctor.

Where did these “grower’s licenses” come from in the first place? In the early days of Prop 215, the court declared that patients may possess and cultivate an amount of cannabis that is reasonable for their medical needs. But what does this mean? Well it means something different for every patient that depends on how much they consume, how they consume, and how sick they are. This is not easy for the cops who like small numbers and easy math. So instead of hoping a cop would find your plant number reasonable, patients started obtaining what we call “exemption letters.” These letters are basically cannabis recommendations that state the doctor’s opinion that the patient needs a specific amount of cannabis to meet their medical needs. The doctor’s opinion is evidence that the amount of plants or dried cannabis specified in the letter is reasonable for the patient’s medical needs.

The exemption is NOT necessary for a Prop 215 defense as patients are already legally entitled to possess and cultivate whatever they need for medical purposes so long as it is reasonable. It is simply a tool to help patients deal with law enforcement. An exemption also does NOT allow you to give or sell the medicine you grow to other patients, even if you have a surplus. A surplus means you grew too much and the plant number was NOT reasonable for your needs. If a doctor writes you an exemption for 99 plants, the law still limits the amount of cannabis you may have to what is reasonable for you. 99 plants may be reasonable for a few patients, but doctors who give them to anyone who pays an extra $200 are not to be relied upon. Unfortunately there are a lot of these shady doctors taking advantage of unknowing patients and exploiting the exemption to sell so-called grower’s licenses implying patients may sell their surplus cannabis when they may not. Again, the only way to get a piece of paper that protects you while growing or selling to other patients is to get it from a collective.

If you are a patient who is not a vendor and does not grow for other patients you do not need anything more than the standard medical cannabis recommendation letter. Before visiting a pot recommendation mill and forking over your hard-earned cash, ask your treating physician if they will give you the recommendation. Unfortunately the answer is commonly “no” because these doctors do not know their rights and the fact that they have absolute legal protection. The next option is to visit one of the medical cannabis expert physicians. For patients in the Bay Area, I suggest you see Dr. Frank Lucido, a leading medical cannabis physician who knows the law and is willing to fight for your rights. If you cannot find an expert physician in your area then you may resort to one of the many clinics offering recommendations. Just be sure you see a licensed doctor and it is in-person (not by skype or phone, another no-no).

Patients already have enough to worry about and should not have to deal with shady doctors. If you have purchased one of these bogus grower’s licenses, contact my office as we are currently working on legal action to help patients get their money back. And please, tell your friends, because friends do not let friends buy bogus growers’ licenses!

Lauren Vazquez is the Fired Up Lawyer. She has been working to expand safe access and end cannabis prohibition for nearly a decade. She offers legal services to the cannabis industry. Visit her website, like her facebook page, and follow her on twitter to keep up with the latest cannabis current events in California and beyond. The information contained in this blog is an ADVERTISEMENT.”