It was an open and shut case — or at least, the police in a northern California town thought so when they confiscated more than two pounds of marijuana from a couple’s home, even though doctors authorized the pair to use cannabis for medical purposes.
San Francisco police evidently thought the same with a father and son they suspected of using the state’s medical marijuana law to operate what the cops claimed was an illegal trafficking organization, reports KTVQ
But both those cases, along with possibly dozens of others, were tossed out in recent weeks because of a California Supreme Court ruling that struck down a seven-year-old state law that put an eight-ounce limit on the amount of marijuana that medical users are allowed to possess.
The court ruled March 5 that patients are entitled to a “reasonable” amount of the herb to treat their ailments. Now, police, prosecutors and defense attorneys are scrambling to determine the maximum amount of pot patients can possess without landing in legal hot water.
Law enforcement officials whine that the ruling has made the hazy legal area of pot policy in California even more difficult to enforce.
The tensions between California’s laws regarding marijuana, medical and otherwise, and those of the federal government — which recognizes no legitimate uses for marijuana, medical or otherwise — could become heightened this fall if the state’s voters approve a November ballot measure legalizing possession and cultivation of small amounts of pot for adults.
“The way the law is now, it puts law enforcement between a rock and a hard place,” whined Martin J. Mayer, a lawyer representing the California State Sheriff’s Association, California Police Chief’s Association, and California Peace Officer’s Association.
“The measure, if it passes, will make it even more difficult,” Mayer complained. “They just don’t like being in the middle.”
But not all defense attorneys and marijuana advocates are as happy with the ruling as are patients and caregivers who have had their criminal cases dropped.
Some say that clear-cut limits actually would better shield medical marijuana patients from pot-phobic law enforcement officers who tend to have a, shall we say, strict interpretation of what constitutes a “reasonable” amount.
“I wish there was a bright line,” said famed marijuana attorney Bruce Margolin. “It’s the only protection against arrest.”
Despite the confusion on all sides, there appears to be no political push to develop workable guidelines, which the Supreme Court ruled must be done by voters, since Prop 215, California’s original medical marijuana law, was passed by ballot initiative.