California Court Calls Medical Marijuana Limits ‘Improper’


Photo: Wo/Men’s Alliance for Medical Marijuana
Plant limits may become a thing of the past in California.

​A California court of appeals in San Diego has ruled that the amount of marijuana a medical user can legally possess is a question jurors should decide, and using limits defined in state law is improper.

The unanimous ruling could change the way many medical pot cases are handled at the trial stage, according to legal experts. A ruling is expected soon from the California Supreme Court that deals with a similar issue, SignOnSanDiego reports.
Medical marijuana patient Nathaniel Archer of San Diego was arrested by San Diego police with 98 pot plants in his home, along with 1.72 pounds of dried marijuana. He was convicted in 2007 for cultivating and possessing marijuana and sentenced to probation.

The appeals court reversed his convictions for pot possession, concluding it was wrong to use the limits on the amount of marijuana a patient can have that the California Legislature established in 2003 as part of SB 420. That law “amended and clarified” the original Compassionate Use Act, the voter initiative passed in 1996 that allowed medical use of marijuana in the state.
Under the California Constitution, the Legislature can’t amend a voter initiative, unless doing so is specifically allowed in the initiative’s language.
The state Supreme Court heard arguments on the same issue on Nov. 3 in an unrelated case, and is expected to rule soon. Most observers expect the court to strike down the numeral limits as unconstitutional.
In Archer’s case, the Attorney General’s office admitted that the numerical limits were in fact unconstitutional, but it argued his conviction should stand because telling jurors to use the limits, as Superior Court Judge Kerry Wells did at Archer’s trial, wasn’t prejudicial.

Justice Patricia D. Benke: The only standard is whether amount of marijuana “reasonably related” to patient’s needs

​Justice Patricia Benke disagreed. Benke said with both sides conceding the unconstitutionality of numeral limits, the only standard applicable was whether the amount of marijuana was “reasonably related” to a patient’s medical needs.
According to Archer’s lawyer, the decision will have an impact on other medical marijuana cases. “This has real ramifications,” attorney Russell Babcock said. “It becomes a case-by-case basis for juries of reasonableness.”
Patients say some need much larger amounts of marijuana because they use it in baked products, topical ointments, concentrates, and other applications.
Law professor Alex Kreit said the decision is important because it means patients will not be automatically subject to prosecution if they exceed numerical limits. Kreit said defendants will still have to convince a jury that the amount of marijuana they had was appropriate.