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California Supreme Court strikes down limits on medical marijuana possession

January 21, 2010 | 11:50 am

The California Supreme Court today struck down the state's limits on how much medical marijuana a patient can possess, concluding that the restrictions imposed by the Legislature were an unconstitutional amendment of a 1996 voter-approved initiative.

The decision means that patients and caregivers with a doctor's recommendation to use marijuana can now possess as much as is "reasonably related to the patient's current medical needs," a standard that the court established in a 1997 decision.

"I'm very pleased. They gave us exactly what we wanted," said Gerald F. Uelmen, a law professor at Santa Clara University who argued the case for Patrick K. Kelly, a medical marijuana patient from Lakewood who was convicted of possession and cultivation. "This makes it very clear that all of the rights of patients under the Compassionate Use Act are fully preserved."

The initiative did not limit the amount of marijuana that a patient could possess or cultivate other than to require it be "personal medical purposes."

In 2003, the Legislature passed a law intended to clarify the initiative and give guidance to patients and law enforcement officials. The Legislature decided that patients could have up to 8 ounces of dried marijuana and grow as many as six mature or 12 immature plants. The law also allowed a patient to have more if a doctor stated that amount was insufficient.

The court concluded that those restrictions improperly amended the Compassionate Use Act, which was approved by voters and includes no provision that allows the Legislature to amend it.

-- John Hoeffel

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