The California Supreme Court overturned the limit on how much medical marijuana a patient can carry in a unanimous vote yesterday, ruling residents can have as much as personally necessary.
The court found the former limit of six mature plants and eight ounces of cannabis was not consistent with state law. California voters passed Proposition 215 in 1996, allowing residents to possess marijuana for medical use. Thursday’s ruling puts a hold on a more than decade long legal debate about the meaning of the proposition, which said patients could possess whatever amount necessary for their “personal needs.”
Aaron Smith, California policy director for the Marijuana Policy Project said the ruling was not a surprise.
“We support the court’s ruling,” Smith said. “Nothing about the state law changed, but it just provided clarification to law enforcement which was sorely needed.”
Smith also said the ruling will provide a cohesive understanding of the law across the state.
“We’re satisfied and gratified that the court has provided law enforcement with direction that is good for the patient and good for law enforcement,” Smith said.
Medical marijuana patients in the state of California can avoid arrest for possession of cannabis by acquiring a doctor’s prescription and state-issued ID card. Despite California state law, the legality of cannabis ID cards remains in question.
Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown, speaking at the County Board of Supervisor’s meeting Tuesday, said that it is not legal to carry marijuana because it is still illegal under federal law.
“It is not possible to legalize something in this state that is a crime in the United States,” Brown said. “[The ID card] is basically a convenience factor, and it gives an officer or a deputy that is in the field the ability to have some information as to whether or not he or she would exercise some discretion in that particular case.”
At Tuesday’s meeting, the board enacted a 45-day moratorium prohibiting any new dispensaries within the county. Supervisors are also considering new regulations for dispensaries, including a potential ban on medical marijuana shops.
The supervisors’ decision comes just one month after the city of Santa Barbara established a similar ordinance banning new dispensaries within city limits during the moratorium.
Third District Supervisor Doreen Farr said there is currently not enough county regulation of the dispensaries.
“A dispensary could come in where a shoe store was, in effect,” Farr said. “There is a feeling that they need to have a little more scrutiny than that.”
Despite doubts from county officials, Goleta doctor and former county supervisor candidate David Bearman said medical marijuana is a valuable and legitimate therapy.
“I believe that they have not looked at this in a dispassionate responsible fashion,” Bearman said. “I think that the county and the city have [a lot] to answer to. What about people with multiple sclerosis? What about the quadriplegics? What about the people with Parkinson’s? What do they expect them to do?”