Imagine if there were a law that made it illegal to possess Vicodin.
Well, actually, as it turns out, there is a law that makes it illegal to possess Vicodin…
…without a prescription.1
Now imagine that the police stopped you for some reason — or maybe they heard from a friend, who heard from a friend that you had some Vicodin — so they search your car, or your house, or you, and they find Vicodin.
But you have a prescription. So you whip out your prescription, show it to the cops, and they let you go.
Actually, it would never happen exactly like that, because most likely your Vicodin would be in a prescription bottle, with the prescription written right on it. In any event, if the only thing the police found was a prescription bottle with some Vicodin in it, they would be extremely unlikely to arrest you for that reason alone.2
But what if the police decided, for some reason, that they didn’t believe “having a prescription” was a valid defense to your having Vicodin. Suppose the police decided that everyone they found with Vicodin must be breaking the law. So everyone they stop with Vicodin shows them a prescription, or they see it written right on the bottle, but they go ahead and take all those people to jail anyway, charge them with felony possession of a controlled substance, and force them to defend themselves in court, possibly wiping out their savings in the process — and possibly going to prison anyway.
That would never happen, though, right? Well, at least we know it doesn’t happen to most people possessing Vicodin with a prescription.
Now imagine that we were talking about medical marijuana instead of Vicodin.
- Cal. Health & Safety Code § 11350. [↩]
- Mind you, when the police want to arrest somebody, they’re going to find some way to do it. But they would be extremely unlikely to arrest someone for possessing a bottle of Vicodin which appeared to have the proper information showing that it was a valid prescription. They’ll find some other reason. [↩]