#427 Confusion In California

Date: Fri, 22 Jan 2010 08:35:15 -0800
Subject: #427 Confusion In California

CONFUSION IN CALIFORNIA

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DrugSense FOCUS Alert #427 – Friday, 22 January 2010

Today newspapers across California are printing articles about a
Supreme Court of California decision which may impact patients who are
authorized to use medicinal cannabis. If there is a common thread in
the printed articles it is one of confusion. Many of the articles
contain varied opinions about what, if any, impact the decision will
have.

You may read the decision at http://mapinc.org/url/SkEZh5HU

The Los Angeles Times coverage of the story is below. Here are links
to some other newspaper articles about the topic:

Press Democrat http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v10.n059.a07.html

San Francisco Chronicle http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v10.n059.a08.html

Sacramento Bee http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v10.n059.a09.html

Daily Nexus http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v10.n060.a01.html

Pasadena Star-News http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v10.n060.a02.html

Times-Standard http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v10.n060.a04.html

Oakland Tribune http://www.mapinc.org/drugnews/v10.n060.a05.html

Please consider sending your own opinion as a letter to the editor to
your own local newspapers and, if you wish, to some of the newspapers
listed in this alert.

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Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)

Page: A4

Copyright: 2010 Los Angeles Times

Contact: http://mapinc.org/url/bc7El3Yo

Author: John Hoeffel

Referenced: The Supreme Court of California Opinion
http://mapinc.org/url/SkEZh5HU
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/find?253 (Cannabis – Medicinal – U.S.)
Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/find?115 (Cannabis – California)

STATE LIMITS ON MEDICAL POT REJECTED

California Supreme Court Invalidates a 2003 Provision That Capped
Possession at Eight Ounces.

The Justices Unanimously Declare Unconstitutional a 2003 Provision
That Capped Possession at Eight Ounces and Cultivation at Six Mature
or 12 Immature Plants.

In a unanimous decision filed Thursday, the California Supreme Court
struck down the state’s specific limits on how much medical marijuana
a patient can possess, concluding that restrictions imposed by the
Legislature were an unconstitutional amendment of a voter-approved
initiative.

The decision, which affirmed an appellate decision, means people who
have a doctor’s recommendation to use marijuana can possess and
cultivate as much as is “reasonably necessary.”

The court invalidated a provision of a 2003 state law passed to
clarify the initiative. Under that law, patients or their primary
caregivers could have no more than eight ounces of dried marijuana and
grow no more than six mature or 12 immature plants. The law, however,
allowed patients to have more than that if they had a statement from a
doctor that the amount was insufficient.

“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.

Medical marijuana advocates and defense attorneys said the court’s
decision could make it harder for prosecutors to win convictions
because they will no longer be able to tell juries that a defendant
had more medical marijuana than the law allows.

“The big impact is going to be the change in perception by the
district attorney,” said Allison B. Margolin, a Los Angeles attorney.
“It’s going to be difficult for a narcotics expert to testify that an
amount is unreasonable.”

The state’s 1996 medical marijuana initiative, known as the
Compassionate Use Act, put no limit on the amount of cannabis a
patient could possess or cultivate other than to require that it be
“personal medical purposes.”

Seven years later, the Legislature passed a law to create medical
marijuana identification cards to help protect patients from arrest
and included the limits on possession and cultivation.

The justices concluded that the state Constitution bars the
Legislature from changing an initiative approved by voters, but also
appeared to rue that restraint. Almost a third of the 54-page decision
written by Chief Justice Ronald M. George discusses how California’s
initiative process places unparalleled limits on the Legislature. The
decision notes that it “may well be prudent and advisable” for
lawmakers to have the power to set limits.

George recently gave a speech to the American Academy of Arts and
Sciences in which he questioned whether initiatives had become “an
impediment to the effective functioning of a true democratic process.”

In an odd twist, Uelmen and state prosecutors argued before the court
that the limits were unconstitutional.

Both sides also argued that the appellate court erred when it ruled
the entire section of the law that included the limits was
unconstitutional. They maintained that the limits were valid as part
of the state’s medical marijuana identification card program.

“It effectively would have gutted the ID card program,” said Deputy
Atty. Gen. Michael Johnsen.

The court agreed, concluding that the limits could still be applied to
the identification card program.

Medical marijuana advocates and the state attorney general’s office
said that means patients with ID cards are shielded from arrest for
possession or cultivation if they have less than the limits in state
law or the more liberal limits adopted by some cities and counties.
But Chris Conrad, a court-qualified expert medical marijuana witness,
said he believed the limits would also protect patients without cards.

“In one sense this is a call to patients to enroll in the ID card
program if they want to be immune from arrest and prosecution,” said
Kris Hermes with Americans for Safe Access, a medical marijuana
advocacy organization.

The card program, however, has been largely shunned by patients who
have been afraid to have their names listed in government records.
Statewide, about 38,000 cards, which must be renewed annually, have
been issued since the program started. In Los Angeles County, the
total is 1,574.

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Prepared by: Richard Lake, Senior Editor http://www.mapinc.org

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