The Californian Supreme Court has struck down as unconstitutional the state's limits on how much medical marijuana a patient can possess.
It said that the restrictions imposed by the Legislature were an unconstitutional amendment of a 1996 voter-approved initiative. The resulting Compassionate Use Act had made California the first state to legalize medical use of marijuana.
But in 2003, the Legislature amended the Act to 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.
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, John Hoeffel wrote in Los Angeles Times.
However, Chief Justice Ronald George maintained the possession and cultivation limits still applied to the identification cards authorized by the same law, and while card holders could not be arrested as long as they did not possess over 8-oz. of marijuana, individual counties had the power to increase the amounts.
"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."
California already has some of the most permissive medical marijuana rules in the country. The ruling comes as a shot in the arm for the medical marijuana activists.
However, an advocacy group expressed concerns over doing away with the numerical limits which, they said, provided some guidance to police and patients.