CA Supreme Court Strikes Limits on Medical Marijuana

The California Supreme Court today in a much-anticipated decision, People v. Kelly, ruled for medical marijuana patients and caregivers and invalidated part of a legislative amendment to the state's medical marijuana law that imposed limits on the amount of pot one could grow or possess in order to raise the state statute as an affirmative defense in a criminal case.

Today's decision also affirms protection from arrest and prosecution for patients who both possess a state-issued identification card and comply with state or local personal use guidelines.

"The California Supreme Court did the right thing by abolishing limits on medical marijuana possession and cultivation," said Joe Elford, Chief Counsel with Americans for Safe Access, the country's largest medical marijuana advocacy group. "At the same time, the Court may have left too much discretion to law enforcement in deciding what are reasonable amounts of medicine for patients to possess and cultivate."


The opinion is here.

Health and Safety Code section 11362.77,1 which is part of the Medical Marijuana Program (MMP) (§ 11362.7 et seq.), prescribes a specific amount of marijuana that a “qualified patient” may possess or cultivate. We granted review to determine whether this aspect of section 11362.77 is invalid under California Constitution, article II, section 10, subdivision ©, insofar as it amends, without approval of the electorate, the Compassionate Use Act (CUA) (§ 11362.5), an initiative measure adopted by the voters as Proposition 215 in 1996.

We conclude, consistently with the decision of the Court of Appeal below (and with the position of both parties in the present litigation), that insofar as section 11362.77 burdens a defense under the CUA to a criminal charge of possessing or cultivating marijuana, it impermissibly amends the CUA and in that respect is invalid under article II, section 10, subdivision ©. We also conclude, consistently with the views of both parties in the present litigation, that the Court of Appeal erred in concluding that section 11362.77 must be severed from the MMP and hence voided.

....Whether or not a person entitled to register under the MMP elects to do so, that individual, so long as he or she meets the definition of a patient or primary caregiver under the CUA, retains all the rights afforded by the CUA. Thus, such a person may assert, as a defense in court, that he or she possessed or cultivated an amount of marijuana reasonably related to meet his or her current medical needs (see Trippet, supra, 56 Cal.App.4th 1532, 1549), without reference to the specific quanitative limitations specified by the MMP.

....We conclude as follows: To the extent section 11362.77 (together with its quantitative limitations) impermissibly amends the CUA by burdening a defense that would be available pursuant to that initiative statute, section 11362.77 is invalid under California Constitution article II, section 10, subdivision ©.

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    To me, this is all wishful thinking, in (none / 0) (#1)
    by oculus on Thu Jan 21, 2010 at 06:26:32 PM EST
    light of existing federal criminal law.

    stealth legalization, nothing more (none / 0) (#2)
    by diogenes on Thu Jan 21, 2010 at 07:01:46 PM EST
    If you wanted to regulate medical marijuana, then anyone who wanted it would have to have a documented diagnosis AND a documented failure of a trial of Marinol tablets.
    Just legalize the stuff and tax it already if that's what you really want.

    Wow... (none / 0) (#3)
    by kdog on Fri Jan 22, 2010 at 08:59:06 AM EST
    we agree my man!  I always thought the medical mj movement was a waste of time...just outright legalize.  The sick get their medicine and we get the threat of chains off everydody's mind who enjoys this plant, for whatever reason....medicinal, spiritual, recreational.