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Any patient or caregiver can become the target of a law enforcement action. Each person who decides to use medical cannabis, or helps a patient to do so, should be prepared in advance to successfully maneuver through these encounters. You might not be able to avoid arrest in each instance, but chances of successfully fighting charges are greatly improved by education and careful planning. There are many measures you can take before legal problems occur. Here is a checklist that patients and caregivers can use to prepare themselves:
- If possible, attend a "Know Your Rights" training class in your local area (contact ASA for details).
- Understand, practice, and use the phrases "I do not consent to a search" and "I choose to remain silent," and "I want to see my lawyer."
- Maintain a current physician's recommendation.
- Have a clearly defined patient/caregiver relationship.
- Develop a relationship with a lawyer. You do not have to retain their services immediately, but do talk to them about your legal status as a patient and let them know you might need assistance at some point.
- Memorize your physician's and lawyer's phone numbers, or write them down to keep with your physician's statement or identification card.
- Inform the people in your life, such as family, friends, and roommates about your medical use of cannabis. They should be prepared to assist if you are arrested or harassed. They should also be educated about the "know your rights" information, as they may be questioned in an investigation of your cannabis use.
- Keep only a personal use supply of medical cannabis on hand. Keep this medicine in one bag, even if they are different strains of medicine. Multiple bags of cannabis can be construed as being packaged for resale.
- Clearly label all medical cannabis products and related items "For Personal Medical Use Only." This will help assure enforcement agents of your intent, and will also offer your lawyer a clear chance to introduce physical evidence of medical cannabis use in any resulting case.
- Be aware of how to get out of jail if you are arrested. You may want to make a plan for bail, bond, or being released from jail on your own recognizance.
- Join the local, state, and national medical cannabis movement. Get involved to support your community, lobby elected officials, and educate the jury pool. Make changes in the federal law now, and help educate the state and local police about medical use of cannabis.
- Have a phone tree in place to notify people if you are arrested. This will be your support group to get you out of jail and to help you feel connected while locked up.
- Protect and organize your personal belongings and financial data.
- Make a plan for emergency child, pet, and plant care, and have a method arranged to manage your general affairs if arrested, such as paying bills and canceling appointments.
- Make a personal commitment to non-violence, and consider a written pledge to commemorate this decision. Committing verbal or physical acts of violence will never help your situation. No matter how frustrating you might find an enforcement encounter or argument with a neighbor, be calm and respectful.
- Have other medication on hand that may help your condition in an emergency. Although these medications may not be as effective, it is important to have an alternative in case your access to cannabis is cut off.
- Always keep alert for signs of surveillance and be aware of brewing problems with the neighbors to avert potential problems early.
This list is long, and hopefully, you will never need to worry about most of these concerns. Patients have enough to deal with. Complete as many of these tasks as possible. Caregivers should help their patients through the checklist, while preparing themselves too. Use the list as a guide, and add your own ideas to it.
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