Recommending Medical Cannabis in California

The Compassionate Use Act of 1996 provided seriously ill Californians with the right to obtain and use cannabis for medical purposes when it has been recommended, under certain circumstances, by a physician who is the patient’s attending physician.  The recent passage of California’s Senate Bill 643 established a more comprehensive licensing and regulatory framework for the cultivation, manufacture, transportation, storage, distribution, and sale of medical cannabis.  With respect to physicians, the new law includes guidance and direction to the Medical Board of California (“MBC”).  
California law now requires that the MBC prioritize cases against those physicians who excessively recommend cannabis to patients.  The law also specifies that it is unprofessional conduct—and thus puts a physician’s license at risk of revocation, suspension, or probation–to recommend medical cannabis to a patient without (1) an appropriate prior examination and (2) medical indication.
The law also criminalizes accepting, soliciting, or offering any form of remuneration from or to a state-licensed cannabis facility if the physician or his or her immediate family has a financial
stake in that facility. 
Additionally, the law limits advertising for physician recommendations for medical cannabis in California.
All California physicians should know, however, that cannabis remains a Schedule I drug according to the federal Controlled Substances Act.  Activity related to cannabis use is subject to federal prosecution, regardless of protections provided by California law.