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Friday, January 22, 2010

A Big Fat Bowl of Nothing: What the Pot Limit Strike Down Really Means

Posted By on Fri, Jan 22, 2010 at 4:04 PM

What exactly did the California Supreme Court do Thursday, when it struck down a 2003 law limiting the amount of pot a medical marijuana patient can possess to eight ounces? A big fat bowl of nothing, says Dale Gieringer, who as director of the state office of National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), ought to know.

All the court did was uphold the will of the voters - which is exactly what it did when it upheld Proposition 8, incidentally. Proposition 215, passed in 1996 by voters, put no arbitrary limits on how much pot a patient can possess; it was the 2003 law, passed by the Assembly, that did. Voters trump the voted, every time. "This is exactly as we expected," Gieringer said. The state "cannot arbitrarily limit the amount of plants, the amount of medicine a patient might use."


That is not to say a recommendation gives any patient, anywhere, carte blanche to tote any amount of medicine.

"If you have 10 pounds, you're just as likely to be arrested now as before (the decision)," Gieringer said Thursday afternoon.

That's because 10 pounds is a limit well above what's "reasonably allowable" for medicinal marijuana patients under Proposition 215. There are different thresholds for different ailments, many of which are above eight ounces -- Patrick Kelly, the defendant in Thursday's case, was busted with 12 ounces and seven plants in Southern California. And many counties across the state allow more than others: Humboldt County, for example, allows a patient to possess three pounds of dried weed and an unlimited amount of plants.

Gieringer speculates that Thursday's decision will have little effect on current law enforcement attitudes: a patient can still be arrested for possessing a pound or two. "It's still an issue," Gieringer says, "and it will still be an issue."

SF Weekly placed a call to the San Francisco Police Department to see if the decision should impact local law enforcement, but have not yet heard back. We'll keep you posted.

Follow us on Twitter at @sfallshookdown and @sfweekly.

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About The Author

Chris Roberts

Chris Roberts has spent most of his adult life working in San Francisco news media, which is to say he's still a teenager in Middle American years. He has covered marijuana, drug policy, and politics for SF Weekly since 2009.


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