The California Supreme Court today struck down a state law that set an 8-ounce limit on the amount of medical marijuana a patient can possess at one time.

The court, in a ruling issued in San Francisco, unanimously said the measure approved by the Legislature in 2003 was an illegal amendment of the medical marijuana law enacted by state voters in 1996.

The initiative, known as the Compassionate Use Act, doesn’t set a limit and allows patients to possess the amount needed for “personal medical purposes.”

The court ruled in the case of a Los Angeles County patient, Patrick Kelly, who was prosecuted and sentenced to probation for possessing 12 ounces.

Chief Justice Ronald George wrote that the 2003 law illegally amended the initiative because it “effectuates a change in the Compassionate Use Act that takes away from rights granted by the initiative statute.”

The court said the California Constitution doesn’t allow the Legislature to amend voter initiatives.

The 2003 law was intended to clear up confusion about how police and prosecutors should apply the medical marijuana law.

The state high court left in place another provision of the 2003 law that set up a voluntary identification card system for patients and their caregivers.

The panel said there was no reason to strike down the identification card system because it deals with a different subject. The identification cards protect genuine patients from being arrested, while the medical marijuana law protects patients from being prosecuted.

Santa Clara University law professor Gerald Uelmen, who represented Kelly in the appeal, praised the decision.

“It protects fully all the rights that patients have under the Compassionate Use Act,” Uelmen said.

He also said, “The court was very careful to define the limits of the Legislature’s power to amend initiatives.”

That part of the ruling “will have an important impact far beyond medical marijuana,” Uelmen predicted.

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