Medical Cannabis Laws get Nod from California Supreme Court

SAN FRANCISCO-Last week the California Supreme Court further clarified the state's medical cannabis laws with a ruling that makes clear there are no conflicts between the initiative passed by voters in 1996 and the law passed by the legislature in 2003.

The court's written decision in People v. Wright, a criminal medical marijuana case, primarily addressed questions about the right of patients and caregivers to transport medical cannabis within the state. The Supreme Court found that the law covers it and does so retroactively.

But underlying the ruling was the resolution of questions about the constitutional validity of the legislature's Medical Marijuana Program (MMP) act, passed in 2003 as Senate Bill 420. Voter initiatives - such as 1996's Proposition 215, now known as the Compassionate Use Act (CUA) - may not be rescinded or substantially altered by action of the state legislature, but additional action may be taken to clarify or implement them.

The court found that the MMP ""address[es] additional issues that were not included within the [CUA], and that must be resolved in order to promote the fair and orderly implementation of the act."

"While we wish the conviction of Mr. Wright had been overturned, the court has provided a good interpretation of the law that will help other patients," said Joe Elford, chief counsel for the medical cannabis advocacy group Americans for Safe Access.

The Orange County man who brought the case, Shaun Eric Wright, 43, was convicted of possessing marijuana with the intent to sell it. He explained to the court that he uses cannabis in edible form, which requires larger quantities than are typical for patients who smoke the drug, but the trial court refused to instruct the jury on a medical defense.

In addition, the Court found from the legislative history of the MMP that the amounts of cannabis described therein (8 ounces of dried marijuana and 6 mature or 12 immature plants) constitute a threshold minimum that law enforcement must allow, not a ceiling.


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With more than 30,000 active members with chapters and affiliates in more than 40 states, Americans for Safe Access is the largest national member-based organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic uses and research.