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Medical Marijuana: California Appeals Court Throws Out Quantity Limits

Submitted by Phillip Smith on (Issue #538)
Drug War Issues
Politics & Advocacy

In a May 22 decision, the California 2nd District Court of Appeal in Los Angeles has ruled that state lawmakers unconstitutionally overstepped their bounds by limiting the amount of marijuana patients could possess. California's Compassionate Use Act became law as the result of a 1996 voter initiative, and the legislature cannot amend initiatives, the court held.

California medical marijuana bags (courtesy Daniel Argo via Wikimedia)
Seeking to regulate medical marijuana in the state, the legislature passed a bill that set limits on the amount of pot patients could possess. That bill set the limit at eight ounces of dried marijuana and six mature or 12 seedling plants.

Prosecutors used that provision of the law to charge medical marijuana patient Patrick Kelly with marijuana possession and sales after they busted him with 12 ounces. Kelley was a registered patient, but did not have a doctor's recommendation that he needed more than the eight ounces envisioned by the legislative action. Prosecutors were wrong to charge Kelly, the court held.

"The CUA does not quantify the marijuana a patient may possess. Rather, the only 'limit' on how much marijuana a person falling under the act may possess is it must be for the patient's 'personal medical purposes,'" Justice Richard Aldrich wrote.

"The legislature... cannot amend an initiative, such as the CUA, unless the initiative grants the legislature authority to do so," Aldrich continued in the 7-2 opinion. "The CUA does not grant the legislature the authority to amend it without voter approval."

The unconstitutional provision was part of a 2004 bill by Sen. John Vasconcellos (D-Santa Clara) that sought to clarify the state's medical marijuana law. The following year, Vasconcellos got a bill passed that removed the cap language, but it was vetoed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who argued that it removed "reasonable and established quantity guidelines."

Permission to Reprint: This content is licensed under a modified Creative Commons Attribution license. Content of a purely educational nature in Drug War Chronicle appear courtesy of DRCNet Foundation, unless otherwise noted.


Malkavian (not verified)

If someone scores a gram of bud every week he can only be caught with that amount at any time (and will likely receive a relatively small punishment). Someone who decides to grow a years worth of the stuff himself (or buy it at once) will probably go behind bars if catched. And woe to the grower who likes to grow a LOT of the stuff because he likes to make hashish or cannabis extracts (and save his lungs the trouble of all that plant material).

The amount possessed doesn't realistically indicate the size of the crime, and it really shouldn't be used.

Fri, 06/06/2008 - 5:00am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

What a wonderful forum we have to discess the pain of the oppression pot smokers suffer. A really smart guy Tom Hartman on NOVA-M radio talks about libertarian issues frequently. It is true that the libertarian idea of no laws pertaining to pot is an atractive one. One must be very careful about accepting the libertarian philosophy of government in most cases however. The multititude of Ron Paul supporters really don't understand the reprocussions of that political philosophy I believe. Any one who has ever left a bunch of little kids in a room alone with a fat chocolate cake and ice cream will understand. It winds up on the floor the walls the cieling etc.etc. When there are no guide lines things get very messy and even dangerous. The thugs and criminals take over. In some respects there has been a libertarian philosophy in place in Washinton for the last seven years. Thats as long as your a corporation like Haliburton or Black Water Security. No rules no bids no accountabillity. Every thing we do in this world has some spillover affects that have some cost to the environment or society. Often these effects are completely unknown to us untill something happens or someone points it out to us, The legalization of weed will be a great boon to society. It will spare millions of suffering people the pain of disease and depression. It will fuel our vehicles and generate billions of dollars for schools and infrastructure projects. Whether your a Christian, Buhdist, Hindu, or athiest the cosmic good sense and civivlity of returning to the society part of your treasure is a good thing. As long as it isn't oppressive and over burdening.

Sun, 06/08/2008 - 12:23am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

I'm only 53 but to most 20 , 30 somethings I'm one step from ash heap. I have some incredable stories from Amsterdam London, Thailand, Humbolt and a thousand other adventures. If your not a hollywood movie star it can be very difficult to get a hold of some good bud. As we get older "notice I said we"; cause your gona be there sooner than you think we don't have the same connections we did when we were younger. We don't get invited to big parties and are school friends are gone to the four winds or even dead. I urge all of you who have access to good weed on a regular basis to share some good bud with us geezers once in a while. We need it as much or more than you. Do it anonamously if neccessary just make a little care package with an anaonamous note and leave it at their door. Your gift may prevent depression, relieve pain, even prevent a suicide. By all meens open your heart and your mind and share the company of someone like me once in a while. I promise you'll laugh so hard you'll puke up your cheese whiz. You'd be amazed how much good it will do for you and us. I mean as long as they don't take out their teeth and gum the dube on ya what have you got to loose. :)

Sun, 06/08/2008 - 12:41am Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

In reply to by Anonymous (not verified)

I couldn't agree more. I even practice some of Anon's suggestions. I'm 65, have a host of major and minor medical problems that are mitigated, alleviated, or at least dampened by cannabis. I'm not into anything stronger, but at the end of my workday, I truly enjoy a "cocktail" rolled in ZigZag. Helps my aches and pains and helps me sleep through the night instead of traking my RX's of Sleeping pills,Valium, Hydrocodone, clonazepam, and Diazapam. It has also allowed me to cut down on my use of neurontin and Keppra for Seizures. My LIVER doesn't suffer from the processing of those harsh chemicals in my system.

Plus, it makes me feel good and relax. Why do people object to that? What have Curmudgeons have against people being happy?

I don't get loud and obnoxious like some of my drinking friends, I don't DUI, I don't sell, and I don't supply little kids.

I hope the World will wake up to the benefits and the positive economic effect that legalization could have.
Yours truly,

The Music Director

Fri, 06/13/2008 - 4:45pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

If I was in the 1800's I would have the Right to Use Morphine,Heroin or Cannabis, So why in this 2008 we cant use Cannabis Freely.
After having 5 back surgeries an be a 100% disabeld from this injury, I was on OXYCONTIN 700 mg a day, plus many other Gov Legal Drugs, for over 12 years. All the Dr's I ever saw they told me that I was going to DIE if I did'nt get off of all this Legal Drugs like OXYCONTIN. These were Dr's that were not treating me, they were one's I would ask everytime I could. My Pain Management Dr's never told me this, He would say I could live on Opiate's for ever, because we have Opiate recepter in are brain. But a Opiate user that uses 1125 mg of opiates a day, this makes you do not one thing, all you do is hurt and sit in your chair. So after reading history books, I have learned that Cannabis is Safer that Opiates. I only use Cannabis Now after being disabled for over 15 yrs now. When I say I only you Cannabis, I use 15 to 20 joints a day over the 1125 mg's of opiates. My Dr's know this and have seen a big turnaround in me Care for Pain. If you learn what has happen in the Past we all could have a future in all are lives. I have one Q? what will are USA be like with all the People on Opiates like Vicaden 5% opiates, Norco 10% opiates, Oxycontin 100 % opiates, so what will it be like. After the Civil War person's that lost a arm or leg were put on Morphine or Heroin for the rest of there life. Now we are smarter in Medicine in 2008 and why we can't see this is just a Crime. Money is the only reason Cannabis is not Legal in 2008, just look at why Alcohol is Legal in the USA, TAXES its all about the Money. Alcohol kill's so many people every year and the Law is only Legal, because it keeps the Big Wheel turning ( THE COURTS), they all get Payed for this Law. But all of us that don't drink Alcohol have to pay for all that DO. Why? I dont want to TAX Cannabis, its a plant, I am for Freedom to use this Plant, if this is for medicine and not have to take Opiates that are killing many in the USA just look at Heath Ledger, he died legally. So it is so easy Change the Law making Cannabis a Schedule 3 or 4 Drug, no They want to TAX this Drug, it will be the only drug to be Taxed. Alcohol is not a drug it is poison from rotted fruit or grain we all know this but it sold in ever Town. Cannabis is the safes drug that God made for me and you to use, not to be Taxed or controlled by a GOV. So I thing people need to wake-up and see why Rx's are here like Legal Heroin (OXYCONTIN) they get PAYED the Senators and Congress, they have Stocks in all the Rx's Companys, not the Pateints that use them. Why do all the Senator's and Congressman want this Legal Heroin like Oxycontin on the Streets in the USA? It is not like Meth that they got everyone on in the 70's , it will kill you. Heroin is going to be the bigs thing the Medical field will have to see in the future. OR I should say Oxycontin is the New Heroin just a new Name, are Gov and Senator's and Congressman think we can't see this? I was one to learn for myself the truth about its drug Oxycontin and Heroin, Cannabis is safer than and Drug legal or not. And why can I sign this because I am American that knows the truth about what is safe and what it not for this Patient in Pain. J Prinz

Fri, 06/13/2008 - 1:20pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

What effect does the people vs. Kelly ruling have on the yes onB campaign in Mendocino County? It seemed ironic that this decision came right at the end of the campaign to set limits in Mendocino county. Thousands of people in Mendocino County are now wondering if they can plant more than 6 plants after the passing of measure B. Are there any attorneys or legal experts that can help patients understand how the people vs. Kelly ruling affects them and the number of plants they are allowed to grow? - Eric from Humboldt Grow Magazine

Sat, 06/28/2008 - 7:31pm Permalink
Anonymous (not verified)

With "Measure B" being ruled unconstitutional, is it possible for people who have been arrested under the new "Measure B" guidelines to sue the county for violating their civil rights, which protect them from being prosecuted unfairly (isn't this where the term "unconstitutional" comes in)? Seems like the Board of Supervisors, the D.A., and possibly the judge (if it's always the same one issuing the search warants), could also face civil law suits for violating the rights of so many medical marijuana patients.

Sun, 07/06/2008 - 1:39pm Permalink

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