Medical marijuana use limited by location

A sign posted at a house on West First Avenue warns marijuana users to not use the property to smoke weed. Despite California having laws that allow medicinal marijuana, restrictions still remain that limit where it can be used. Photo credit: William Rein

A property manager who owns a house on West First Avenue has threatened to contact police to crack down on students who are using the backyard as a hideaway to smoke marijuana.

On Feb. 3, a hand-written sign was posted on the fence of the property warning that the owner would contact police if there was continued problems with drug use.

While medicinal marijuana is legal in California, no designated locations exist to be able to use it, as with pubs for alcohol or hookah bars for tobacco.

On Dec. 13, the federal government officially stopped its active proscription of medical marijuana. States previously stuck between state legalization and federal prohibition — like California, which has allowed medicinal marijuana to anyone recommended since the passage of Proposition 215 in 1996 — are now free from government persecution.

Today, 18-year-olds in California can see a doctor to get approval to purchase a green card for about $100 annually. This allows them to possess up to 8 ounces of marijuana legally.

However, green cards still don’t protect the holder from smoking in public, driving under the influence and employer urine tests.

Further, medical marijuana laws prohibit use: at or within 1000 feet of a youth center, recreational center or school, anywhere smoking is prohibited by law and in a moving motor vehicle or boat.

The 1000-feet rule is illustrated by a map on the police department’s website that includes the area where the West First Avenue house is located.

The guidelines surrounding enforcement have been full of contradictions and conflicts through the past few years.

In 2011, the Chico Police Officers Association sent a letter to the Chico City Council after plans for the construction of two medical marijuana dispensaries were approved.

The letter described that members of the police union “will not participate in any part of the medical marijuana ordinance that involves commercial marijuana growing or selling operations,” which conflicted with (then) federal law.

Chico officials might face federal repercussions for allowing medical usage, and thus the Chico Police Officers Association chose to disregard the new ordinance, still enforcing federal law prohibiting marijuana in all forms and uses, said Will Clark, spokesman for the police union.

However, two months into the new year, the Chico Police Department’s website was updated to describe the intent to protect medicinal marijuana client’s rights, while emphasizing the place where use is prohibited.

This leaves Chico students with the ability to smoke medicinal marijuana within their personal residences, so long as these do not infringe within a 1000-feet perimeter of Chico State.

For students living in residence housing, marijuana is prohibited within student halls, with a one-strike policy for getting kicked out. Alcohol follows a similar two-strike rule, even for 21-year-old residents.

William Rein can be reached at [email protected] or @theorion_news on Twitter.