Stop the "Medical Reefer Madness." An open letter from J. David Nick

All I can say is wow. If you were on the fence about Prop. 19 then J. David Nick’s breakdown below should wake you up and put you on the right track. READ IN ITS ENTIRETY. You will not be disappointed. Thanks to Lanny Swerdlow for passing this on. This is the nail in the coffin of the No on 19 posse. May you rest in peace and find a real cause to focus your energies…

For my support of Prop. 19, I have been subject to the scorn, approbation and the most demoralizing denunciations imaginable by a group of medical marijuana patients exhibiting what can only be termed “medical reefer madness.”

With the best of intentions based on a poorly researched legal analysis, these anti-19 folks have joined forces with the people whose indifference and outright hostility have resulted in, and continue to result in, the arrest, prosecution and imprisonment of thousands of medical marijuana patients.

Their never-ending harangues that Prop. 215 will go into the trash can of history if Prop. 19 is passed is causing medical marijuana patients extreme anxiety and leading them to question their support of this historic and critical piece of reform legislation. Graphically describing the horrors that will descend like a plague of locusts on unsuspecting medical marijuana patients if Prop. 19 passes, the anti-19 cabal insinuates that we are being duped by unscrupulous and untrustworthy people like Chris Conrad, Judge Jim Gray, Dale Gerringer, Dr. Frank Lucido, State Senator Mark Leno, Assemblymember Tom Ammiano, Jeff Jones, Mark Emery and hundreds of others. To see a list of all their claimed enemies of medical marijuana patients, go to:

To reveal the fallacy of their arguments and to stop stressing patients, I asked my friend, and frankly the friend of every medical marijuana patient in the state of California, J. David Nick, to weigh in on the controversy.

For 18 years, David Nick has successfully litigated a cornucopia of issues regarding cannabis and the applicable laws in both trial and appellate courts. He has not confined his practice to marijuana law, but also litigates cases involving constitutional rights and criminal procedure.

David Nick has never lost a jury trial in a state marijuana case including many precedent setting trials involving some of the most revered figures in the medical marijuana movement such as Brownie Mary, Dennis Peron (Nick has been Peron’s sole attorney since 1994) and Steve Kubby.

One of Nick’s early defenses of Peron’s medical marijuana activism resulted in the first appellate court decision affirming that marijuana can be sold. Kubby’s case was the first large quantity (200 plants) case to be won on the argument that Kubby’s serious ailments necessitated his use of cannabis to keep him alive.

A recent case of interest to patients is the Strauss case, involving a farm in Mendocino County that cultivated marijuana exclusively for a collective in Los Angeles. Nick succeeded in getting a hung jury followed by outright dismissal of all charges involving 250 pounds of processed marijuana, 200 large marijuana plants and $1.5 million in several bank accounts – not exactly consistent with the idea of small collectives with everybody planting, harvesting, trimming and singing Kumbaya.

He is currently representing collectives in Palm Springs, Riverside and Los Angeles in preemptive lawsuits asserting the rights of collectives to provide medicine to their members without undue interference from local government officials.

Nick does not confine his practice to marijuana law, but is involved in significant federal criminal litigation.

His litigation has established the right not to be searched by sniffing dogs without probable cause. This is in contract to car searches where police can search you car for no reason at all.

His litigation has lead to policies requiring police to not draw weapons in a marijuana search unless they have information that the person being apprehended is dangerous.

He has successfully litigated jury trials utilizing a necessity for life defense in order to uphold the operation of needle exchange programs.

As far as I am concerned, these experiences qualify him to provide an opinion about Prop. 19 superior to those I have read from the “sky-is-falling” alarmists

Here is Mr. Nick’s analysis of the effects of Prop. 19 on medical marijuana patients. I will have a few more choice words for you to peruse at the conclusion of Mr. Nick’s thoughtful, rational, reasoned, and accurate analysis.


Anyone who claims that Proposition 19 will restrict or eliminate rights under the Compassionate Use Act (CUA) or the Medical Marijuana Program (MMP) is simply wrong. If anything, Proposition 19 will permit individuals to grow and possess much more than ever before with patients, coops and collectives still receiving the same protections they are entitled to under the CUA and MMP.

Here is why.

The legal arguments claiming the “sky will fall” if Prop. 19 passes are based on the fallacious conclusion that the Initiative invalidates the CUA and MMP. This baseless fear stems from a flawed legal analysis which focuses on just about every portion of Prop. 19 EXCEPT the relevant portions. This flawed legal analysis is driven by an incorrect understanding of the rules of statutory construction.

Although extrinsic materials (such as legislative committee memos or voter pamphlet arguments) may not be resorted to when the legislative language is clear, courts may never ignore the purpose of the legislation. Every interpretation a court gives a statute must be consistent with the purpose of the legislation. This is why statutes have long “preambles” which explicitly state the purposes of the legislation.

This rule is so controlling that a court is required to ignore the literal language of a legislative statute if it conflicts with the purpose of the legislation. By example I call attention to the appellate court case of Bell v. DMV. In this precedent setting case, the court ruled that a statute must be interpreted to apply to civil proceedings even though the statute they were interpreting stated it applied only to “criminal” proceedings. The court’s interpretation of the statute was consistent with the purposes of the legislation and the limitation to criminal cases in the statute itself was not.


Section 2B presents the controlling and relevant purposes for understanding what Prop. 19 can and cannot do. This section EXPRESSLY excludes the reach of Prop. 19 from the CUA and MMP. Sections 2B (7 &  8) specifically state that the purpose of this initiative is to give municipalities total and complete control over the commercial sales of marijuana “EXCEPT as permitted under Health and Safety Sections 11362.5 and 11362.7 through 11362.9.”

Prop. 19 makes it perfectly clear that the Initiative does NOT give municipalities any control over how medical marijuana patients obtain their medicine or how much they can possess and cultivate as the purpose of the legislation was to exempt the CUA and the MMP from local government reach. Whatever control municipalities have over patients and collectives is limited by the CUA and the MMP, not by Prop. 19.

To further reduce everyone’s understandable anxiety over allowing municipalities to unduly control collectives, I direct everyone’s attention to the last statute of the MMP, 11362.83, which reads. “Nothing in this article shall prevent a city or other local governing body from adopting and enforcing laws CONSISTENT with this article.”

Since collectives are expressly allowed, local ordinances banning them are not consistent with the MMP. Health and Safety Code Section 11362.83, which limits municipalities ability to ban coops or overly restrict them, is unaffected by Prop. 19 as it expressly states in Sections 2B (7 & 8) that the laws created by Prop. 19 must be followed “EXCEPT as permitted under Health and Safety Sections 11362.5 and 11362.7 through 11362.9.”


Further protecting patients from local law enforcement actions, Section 11303 states that “no state or local law enforcement agency or official shall attempt to, threaten to, or in fact SEIZE or destroy any cannabis plant, cannabis seeds or cannabis that is LAWFULLY CULTIVATED.” If you are a patient, you may “lawfully cultivate” as much marijuana as medically necessary and Prop. 19 protects that right. If you are cultivating for a collective, you may “lawfully cultivate” as much marijuana as your collective allows you to and Prop. 19 protects that right. Unfortunately, many law enforcement officials refuse to recognize the rights provided under the MMP for collectives to “lawfully cultivate” and sell marijuana. Prop. 19 reinforces those rights and makes it even more difficult for law enforcement to bust a collective or collective grower.


As you can see from the above paragraph, the statutory scheme Prop. 19 creates expressly forbids law enforcement from seizing lawfully cultivated cannabis.

Prop. 19 will create an insurmountable barrier for local law enforcement which is still bent on depriving you of your rights through the despicable device of using federal law enforcement officers.

Here’s why.

Federal drug enforcement is nearly 100 percent dependent on the ability to use local law enforcement. They do not have the manpower to operate without it. Prop. 19 in no uncertain terms tells local law enforcement that they cannot even “attempt to” seize cannabis. If Prop. 19 passes, California will actually have a law on the books that expressly forbids local police from cooperating with the feds in the seizure of any “lawfully cultivated” California cannabis.


The nail in the coffin for those arguing against Prop. 19 is found in Section 2C (1). This is the only section which discusses which other laws the acts is “intended to limit” and nowhere in this section is the CUA or the MMP listed. If the purpose of Prop. 19 was “to limit” the application and enforcement of the CUA and MMP, those laws would have been listed along with all the other laws that are listed in Section 2C (1). Since the CUA and MMP were not listed, then Prop. 19 does not “limit” the CUA and MMP.

It’s that simple.


Section 2B (6) states that one of the purposes of Prop. 19 is to “Provide easier, safer access for patients who need cannabis for medical purposes.” This section is one of the many reasons Prop. 19 is very good for patients. If Prop. 19 passes, the days of having to go through the hassle of getting a doctor’s recommendation to treat simple medical conditions will be coming to an end in those communities which allow Prop. 19 “stores” to exist. When you need an aspirin you do not have to go to a doctor and then to the health department and then to Walgreens – YOU JUST GO TO WALGREENS (the founder of which, Mr. Walgreen, became rich during prohibition by selling “medical” alcohol to patients who had obtained a prescription for alcohol from their doctor).

In those communities which are stubborn and will not allow Prop 19 “stores,” patients will still have the protections of the CUA and MMP and the statutory right to form coops and collectives. Prop. 19 specifically recognizes that these rights are not invalidated and does nothing to limit the ability of patients to cultivate or form collectives or coops.


> As an attorney called upon to defend patients and non-patients in marijuana cases, I cannot tell you how beneficial and how much freedom Section 11300 subdivision A (3) of Prop.19 will be to cannabis users. Read it!

Section 11300: Personal Regulation and Controls

(a) Notwithstanding any other provision of law, it is lawful and shall not be a public offense under California law for any person 21 years of age or older to:
(i) Personally possess, process, share, or transport not more than one ounce of cannabis, solely for that individual’s personal consumption, and not for sale.
(iii) Possess on the premises where grown the living and harvested plants and results of ANY harvest and processing of plants lawfully cultivated pursuant to section 11300(a)(ii), for personal consumption.

Section (i) limits possession to one ounce OUT OF YOUR HOUSE. Section (iii) permits people 21 and over to have within their residence or single parcel ALL the cannabis which one grew in their 25 sq. foot parcel, including what you grew this year, what you grew last year and EVERY SINGLE 25 SQ. FT. HARVEST YOU EVER HAD ON THAT SINGLE PARCEL. This covers as many cycles of indoor and/or outdoor grown cannabis as a person can produce as long as each grow was no more than 25 square feet and done in succession.

Clearly section 11300(a) (i) limits personal possession and consumption to one ounce OUT OF YOUR HOME while section11300(a) (iii) is what you are allowed to have AT YOUR RESIDENCE if that is where your 25 sq. ft. garden is located. That this is the case is established by another rule of statutory construction, i.e. the specific controls the general. Here (iii) is the specific statute with respect to what you can have AT YOUR RESIDENCE ONLY or in the words of subdivision (iii) “on the premises where grown”.

The one ounce limitation only applies when you leave your house, not wherever it is you grow your 25 foot plot. I can picture being able to easily defend a person with 200 pounds who is not even medical.

Under Prop. 19 you can only travel with one ounce, but if you are a patient you can still enjoy the protections of the CUA and MMP and can safely travel with eight ounces, or whatever your doctor permits you to have or the needs of your collective, as allowed by the CUA and the MMP. YOUR SUPPLY PROBLEMS CAUSED BY PARANOID CULTIVATION LAWS AND POLICIES THAT AT TIMES LIMIT YOUR PERSONAL CULTIVATION PROJECTS ARE SOLVED BY PROP. 19.

Prop. 19 creates a marijuana sanctuary IN YOUR HOME ONLY. Prop. 19 allows you to have AT YOUR HOME ONLY ALL OF THE PROCEEDS of every successive 25 sq. foot plot. However, Prop 19 only allows you TO REMOVE IT FROM YOUR HOME one ounce at a time if you are a recreational user.

For patients this is not the case because Prop. 19 exempts them from the one ounce out of home restriction. As stated above, if you are a patient then you can take out of your house up to eight ounces, or whatever your doctor permits you to have or the needs of your collective.

Both medical patients and recreational users should note that Section 11300(a) (i) allows you to “share” up to an ounce which tells me that you can furnish as many one ounces to as many friends as you wish, thus if you have a party with 50 people you could give away 50 ounces.


As for the argument that the various “Notwithstanding” clauses invalidate the CUA and MMP, I reiterate, that in section 2C (1) where Prop. 19 expressly states which statues are being altered, the CUA and MMP are not listed. Therefore, when you use the word “notwithstanding,” you cannot be referring to statues that have been expressly excluded.

Claiming there is some doubt as to what “notwithstanding” means or refers to requires at most that we reach back to the purpose of the legislation in order to give it proper meaning. Whatever interpretation you give it, “notwithstanding” cannot be in conflict with Sections 2 B (7 & 8) which exempt patients covered under the CUA and MMP from any actions taken by municipalities to regulate the non-medical use of cannabis.

The word “notwithstanding” is used when reversing prior legislation and has traditionally been interpreted by prior case law to be a word employed for the purpose of allowing conduct that had previously been forbidden by other statutes. If the word “notwithstanding” was not used in Prop. 19, municipalities would be able to claim that there is still a prohibition on their participation in the licensing and regulating of this activity.

For example, a law making skipping in front of a school illegal would be overturned by a law which says “notwithstanding other laws, skipping is legal.” If the word “notwithstanding” was not there, then skipping in front of a school would still be illegal even though skipping itself would be legal at any other location.

The rationale behind this rule emanates or comes from another rule of statutory construction which is that existing laws cannot be repealed by inference and instead must be EXPRESSLY repealed. A court cannot find that a law, such as the CUA or MMP, was changed by “implication.” In other words, it cannot repeal a law by ruling that another law implied that it should.

Although Sections 2B (7 & 8) gives cities control over the non-medical distribution of cannabis, that in no way allows a court to repeal or even change the CUA and MMP by ruling that it was “implicit” in Prop. 19 that they do so. It is contrary to any rational understanding of statutory construction to infer that since Prop. 19 gives cities control over the distribution of non-medical marijuana, that it also gives cities the right to control the medical distribution of cannabis beyond what the CUA and MMP allows.

The word “notwithstanding” is simply a legal necessity to repeal the various statutes that prohibit the conduct that prop. 19 now permits.

So can everyone please VOTE YES ON 19.


J. David Nick

There you have it in plain simple English – patients have everything to gain and nothing to lose with the passage of Prop. 19 You can believe who you want, but ask yourself, who would you want defending you in court? J. David Nick or your choice of any or all of the authors of the anti-19 screeds?

Get real people. Do you really think the Marijuana Policy Project, National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Drug Policy Alliance, Students for Sensible Drug Policy, and Law Enforcement Against Prohibition would stand idly by, let alone support, an initiative that will undo the millions of dollars and the thousands of hours of staff time they have invested in establishing, protecting and defending the medical marijuana laws that many of themt helped put on the books in the first place?

Americans for Safe Access has chosen to stay neutral on the issue because they see themselves as strictly a medical marijuana organization and Prop. 19 is about the recreational use of marijuana, not medical. Do you think ASA would take a neutral position on Prop. 19 if they thought it would undermine Prop. 215?

The only people who will profit from the undermining of Prop. 19 are narco-cops, bail bondsmen, prison guards, Mexican drug cartels, greedy growers, profit-making collectives and old dogs that can’t learn a new trick.

Those medical marijuana advocates who have chosen to dedicate their existence to defeating Prop. 19, could actually do something of benefit for the medical marijuana community if they would expend their negative energy defeating Steve Cooley, the Republican candidate for California Attorney General.

Unlike Prop. 19, this man is a real threat to medical marijuana patients. As the District Attorney for Los Angeles, he has claimed collectives have no right to sell marijuana and that collectives must be small groups where everybody gets their hands in the soil. He has spent literally millions of taxpayer dollars pursuing medical marijuana patients and providers and if elected Attorney General will probably rescind AG Jerry Brown’s guidelines thereby making every collective in California that operates a storefront or delivery service illegal.

Unfortunately, the money is on him to win the AG race and if he is elected, you better hope Prop. 19 passes so he will be so busy trying to undo 19 that he won’t have time to screw patients.

Don’t just vote YES on 19, work with us to pass this historic initiative that will help, not hurt patients, bring compassion and common sense to marijuana law and deliver a decisive, maybe fatal blow to the war on drugs.

Lanny Swerdlow, RN, LNC

P.S. For those of you who recognize the extreme importance to patients for getting Prop. 19 passed, I encourage you to come to the Prop. 19 meeting this Wednesday, Sept. 8 at 7:30 p.m. where will begin putting into motion our college outreach program. College students are a key constituency for passage of Prop. 19 and we need your help for this critical outreach. The meeting will take place at the THCF Medical Clinic, 647 Main St., Riverside 92501. You do not need to be a college student or of college age to be involved in this program.

2 thoughts on “Stop the "Medical Reefer Madness." An open letter from J. David Nick”

  1. Those who oppose Medicinal Cannabis should be really ashamed of themselves. There were several scientific studies published just recently that confirmed Cannabis effectiveness in such diverse conditions as chronic pain, muscle spasms, malnutrition and glaucoma. Cannabis is also being shown by the most current addiction medicine research as a potential “exit” substance for former alcoholics, hard drug or even prescription drug abusers to help them stay off those substances. A very recent study just published called the so-called “gateway drug” theory “half-baked”. I simply always called it a fantasy. Both the American Medical Association and the Institute of Medicine are in favor of Medicinal Cannabis, and the Canadian Government even pays for this natural remedy for their veterans! There is growing evidence that Cannabis may help prevent such disastrous conditions as cancer and Alzheimer’s disease, and a very recent study just published denies any connection between smoking Cannabis and the risk for lung cancer! According to the prestigious Substance Abuse: A Comprehensive Textbook, 4-th Edition, Cannabis use suppresses violent behavior and “only the unsophisticated” think otherwise.
    What we all need to do is reject these baseless, anti-scientific scare tactics of the “opponents” and pass the Medicinal Cannabis legislation all across the Nation, not just in California, Oregon, or Arizona!

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