Berkeley, Nov. 3rd – In a remarkable turn of events, both sides at today’s California Supreme Court Hearing on the Kelly case agreed that the so-called SB 420 quantity limits in Health and Safety Code 11362.77 are unconstitutional when applied to limit patients’ right to a compassionate use defense under Prop. 215. Instead, they discussed how the Kelly decision could be recast so as not to invalidate 11362.77 when used for other purposes: for example, to protect card-holding patients from arrest when they are within the limits.
Michael Johnsen from the Attorney General’s Office admitted that their “position had evolved” since the Kelly case was first argued, when they had tried to claim that the limits in 11362.77 were constitutional. Asked by the court why they should even be hearing the case in that event, Johnsen said that the court should narrow the Appellate Court decision so as to not throw out 11362.77 altogether.
“I have never had the pleasure of getting up in an appellate argument and saying I agree with everything my opponent said,” remarked defense attorney Gerald Uelmen.
Patrick Kelly was originally charged with growing 7 plants and 12 ounces, an amount above the SB 420 limits. His defense argued that he could not be convicted for exceeding the limits, because Prop. 215 guarantees patients the right to have whatever amount is reasonably related to their medical needs. The Appellate Court agreed that the limits were an unconstitutional amendment to Prop. 215, and struck down the entirety of H&SC 11362.77 as unconstitutional.
Today, both sides agreed that 11362.77 was unconstitutional as applied to Kelly’s case, but that it should be preserved in other situations, where it provides useful guidelines for arrest. The court’s final decision will be forthcoming in 90 days.
– D. Gieringer, Cal NORML