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California Supreme Court rejects medical marijuana limits

[JURIST] The California Supreme Court [official website] on Thursday unanimously overturned [opinion, PDF; case materials] a 2003 law limiting the amount of marijuana that may be possessed under the state's Medical Marijuana Program (MMP) [materials]. The court ruled that Health and Safety Code § 11362.77 [text], allowing patients to possess no more than eight ounces of dried marijuana, represented an unconstitutional effort by the legislature to alter Proposition 215 [text], a voter-approved initiative, without voters' consent. Because the amendment was not approved through the initiative process, the court found:

[T]he Legislature is powerless to act on its own to amend an initiative statute. Any change in this authority must come in the form of a constitutional revision or amendment to article II, section 10, subdivision (c). Therefore, we are compelled to conclude that section 11362.77 impermissibly amends the [Compassionate Use Act].

As adopted, the legislation did not establish specific quantity limits, stating only that patients may possess an amount reasonable for their medical condition.

Earlier this month, New Jersey became the fourteenth US state [JURIST report] to legalize medical marijuana. In November, voters in Maine approved [JURIST report] an expansion of the state's existing medical marijuana laws, making Maine the fifth state to allow dispensaries [ABC News report], following California, Colorado, Rhode Island, and New Mexico. California's Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled in 2008 that the MMP is not in conflict with the Supremacy Clause [JURIST report], and does not violate the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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