The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford 415-573-7842 or ASA Media Liaison Kris Hermes 510-681-6361

California Supreme Court Strikes Limits for Medical Marijuana Patients

Exemption from arrest and prosecution upheld for state-issued ID cardholders


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:

Americans for Safe Access is the nation's largest organization of patients, medical professionals, scientists and concerned citizens promoting safe and legal access to cannabis for therapeutic use and research.