California Supreme Court Strikes Limits for Medical Marijuana Patients

January 21, 2010
San Francisco, CA -- The California Supreme Court issued a unanimous published decision today in People v. Kelly, striking down what it considered unconstitutional legislative limits on how much medical marijuana patients can possess and cultivate. 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."

Although the court affirmed that qualified patients and their primary caregivers retain "all the rights afforded by the CUA [Compassionate Use Act of 1996]," law enforcement can still arrest and prosecute if probable cause exists. In keeping with the CUA, qualified patients and their primary caregivers will still have an affirmative defense in court. Advocates remain concerned that without guidance on personal use amounts, police may abuse their discretion to arrest patients who are in compliance with the law.

The defendant, Patrick Kelly, is a qualified medical marijuana patient treating a number of conditions, including hepatitis C, chronic back pain, and cirrhosis. Kelly was arrested in October of 2005 for possessing 12 ounces and cultivating 7 plants at his home in Lakewood, California. Kelly was convicted a year later by a jury, which concluded that he had exceeded the state-imposed "limits" of 8 ounces of dried medical marijuana and six mature plants. California's Second Appellate District Court overturned Kelly's conviction on the grounds that legislatively-imposed limits on possession and cultivation of medical marijuana are an unconstitutional restriction to a voter approved initiative (Proposition 215, the Compassionate Use Act of 1996).

Both parties in the case, Kelly and the State Attorney General, agreed that medical marijuana limits should be abolished as unconstitutional. Both parties also opposed the appellate court's invalidation of the entire statute, Health & Safety Code Section 11362.77, which protects ID cardholders from arrest and prosecution if they are in compliance with local or state guidelines.

Further Information:
California Supreme Court decision: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/Kelly_Ruling.pdf

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