Welcome to the state of California, Under Proposition 215, The California Compassionate Use Act, I am legally entitled to carry up to 8 ounces on my person and grow 6 mature plants and 12 immature cannabis plants in the privacy of my own home.

The California Compassionate Use Act has been in effect since 1996 and is the longest running medical marijuana program in the world of its kind. It covers the following illnesses: cancer, anorexia, AIDS, chronic pain, spasticity, glaucoma, arthritis, migraine, or any other illness for which marijuana provides relief. Physicians have recommended marijuana for hundreds of indications, including such common complaints as insomnia, PMS, post-traumatic stress, depression, and substance abuse.

MMJ visited California to see what actual legal medicinal cannabis access looks like.

On arrival, we went to the world famous Venice Beach to acquire a medical marijuana card with great ease. There amongst the beach front tourist stalls one can’t miss the guys dressed in green with large cannabis leaf banners directing you to a Doctor’s practice for an assessment. I took my photo-id, filled in 3 forms, paid $40 and was ushered into the Doctor’s practice, answered 3 questions (about my sleep related medicinal cannabis use) and half an hour later I was the proud owner of my own medical marijuana card.

With my “patient ID” I can legally access cannabis medicine in the State of California through one of the 1000 plus regulated medicinal cannabis dispensaries. Further to the 8 ounces I can carry on my person, I can grow plants at home and more importantly I now have legal access to a full spectrum of tested cannabis products. CBD rich cannabis ACDC 25:1 CBD:THC, edibles, tinctures, and fully decarboxylated cannabis oil. Yes, that is correct, within 24 hours of arrival into the state of California, I had legal access to fully tested organic decarboxylated cannabis oil, High THC strains, topical applications, 1:1 strains and ACDC 20:1 CBD rich Oil for the treatment of epilepsy.

We visited as many dispensaries as we could, some of them operate under the guise of medical marijuana but are nothing more than Amsterdam Coffee shops, with attractive ladies selling high THC raw cannabis flowers as quickly as possible to people that want to get high. The best of them however offer a fully holistic service to medicinal cannabis patients, with sound medical advice from in house doctors, a range of every known cannabis product and informative staff who are both well educated in the science and clinical research of cannabis and warm and helpful to patient’s needs.

The best three Medicinal Cannabis Dispensaries in the State of California are The 99 High-Tide Collective in Malibu, The Cornerstone Collective in Los Angeles and the Harborside Health Center in San Francisco.

The 99 High-Tide Collective was started by Yvonne Delarosa Green, a local television personality who while treating her mother’s cancer with cannabis oil, visited dispensaries and found them ‘dark and uninviting’ and wanted to provide people with a place that “someone could take their sick mother, sister or wife to, that was more comfortable, relaxing and beautiful.” Boy have they done that well, with the lovely manager Alex and his warm staff answering all my questions knowledgeably in the most caring and patient friendly way. On top of the most organic and outdoor grown cannabis flowers, they stock a wide range of CBD rich products, RSO, the excellent procana caps which endorsed by a board of doctors make measured (mg) doses of CBD rich extract, ‘Magic Potion’ from Emerald Triangle Genetics (combination of three different 25:1 CBD to THC pulivars ) and finally ACDC 25:1 raw organic outdoor cannabis flower which we could not find anywhere else. It should also be noted that Delarosa Green’s mother is cancer free now.

The Cornerstone Collective is California’s first research based medical marijuana collective, whose main goal is to “provide a safe, responsible, and welcoming environment for our patient community”. They are non-profit and highly professional outfit (walls are decorated with GW terpene charts) and run an extensive compassionate access program providing medicinal cannabis to low income patients, ex-veterans, senior citizens and the terminally ill. They provide a pleather of decarboxylated cannabis oil with four types available from their ‘Healing Oil’ range high THC, high CBD, 2:1 and 7:1 (CBD to THC). This is on top of the range of topicals and high THC flowers available. The only thing missing here was good range of outdoor natural landrace flowers.

The Harborside Health Center is the largest medical cannabis dispensary in California providing cannabis medicine to over 200,000 patients and is the Macy’s of cannabis dispensaries. The Center was started by Steve Deangelo, America’s foremost cannabis campaigner who has been raising awareness for over four decades and playing crucial roles in nearly every law change that has happened here. Founder of Americans for Safe Access, Steve moved to California in 2000 and started Harborside after being disillusioned when congress vetoed his inspired ‘Initiative 59’ that had won a majority vote in Washington and would have made compassionate access to medicinal cannabis legal there. Steve is probably the most connected man in cannabis and maybe the most knowledgeable too. Harborside reflects that, with the widest range of cannabis medicine available to man, every form of oil with CBG and CBN extracts available, all tested for any contaminants and lab research provided for every product. With an emphasis on “sun grown” medicine, they are big on patient education too, with classes on cultivation and how to make your own oil and an enormous amount of seeds and clones available for patients that wish to grow their own medicine. Their mission is to ‘Help every individual person who comes through our doors feel truly cared for, valued and respected’, and ‘Encourage engagement of the mind-body-soul nexus in the healing process’. They do this outstandingly.

So this is what medicinal access should look like; under a physician’s advice, one can gain access to every conceivable cannabis product one can grow for medicinal use at home. One can travel with up to 8 ounces on your person without any fear of reprisals; people here openly smoke or vape cannabis on the street with a fine being the only worry (if you are within 500 metres of a public building) and above all medicinal cannabis patients are treated as patients, not criminals.

How did this happen?

Awareness and the very nature of democracy is in full effect here. The localised state law changed in 1996 when Prop 215 (The Compassionate Use Act) went against the Federal law that still classes cannabis as a schedule 1 drug. The other American states that allow medicinal cannabis operate on the same basis with every state’s right to govern itself being paramount to medicinal cannabis access. This hasn’t stopped the DEA raiding and shutting down independent dispensaries in California and beyond. The amendment lists the states that have medical marijuana laws and mandates that the Justice Department is barred from using federal funds to “prevent such States from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

As the rest of the world gears toward medicinal cannabis access, we hope and pray that the UK government will look at the example of California where medical marijuana has safely been in effect since 1996, where millions of patients have been cared for, where the standard of tested medicinal cannabis is of the highest order and where no-one has ever died as a result of the choice of their medicine.