Amounts of medical marijuana permitted

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The model bill specifies that patients and caregivers who have registry ID cards may not be arrested for possessing up to 12 plants and two and one-half ounces of medical marijuana. For cases where those amounts are not sufficient to ensure that a patient has an adequate supply of his or her medicine, the model bill also has a defense that a patient and caregiver(s) can raise in court to be acquitted or have the charge dismissed.

The bill establishes specific amounts that a person can possess in order to avoid the uncertainty and arrests that occur due to varying interpretations of an "adequate supply," which happened in California after the passage of Prop. 215. After years of uncertainty for patients and law enforcement, the California Legislature enacted S.B. 420, which provided that set amounts of marijuana could be lawfully possessed by patients with registry ID cards.

The model bill initially set the presumptive limit at six plants, but many patients find this amount is insufficient. The amount of marijuana that plants yield can vary widely depending on many factors, including whether the garden is outdoors or indoors. Furthermore, if patients administer medical marijuana by vaporizer or by eating it, they require exponentially larger doses than patients who smoke medical marijuana.

Guidelines developed by medical marijuana expert Chris Conrad of Safe Access Now (SAN) recommend allowing patients to have a medical marijuana garden with a ioo-foot canopy containing up to 99 plants, and up to three pounds of dry marijuana. The guidelines were developed based on "Cannabis Yields," authored by the DEA in 1992. "Cannabis Yields" found that a garden of that size would typically produce three pounds of usable marijuana per year, which is a common amount for patients.

The model bill uses the conservative plant and dry marijuana amounts that are in current laws as a basis in order to increase the likelihood of the bill's passage in legislatures. At the same time, it recognizes the need for more leeway for the serious ill based on SAN's analysis. California law currently allows 12 immature or six mature plants, and counties can enact higher limits. Several counties have done so, many of which have enacted SAN's 100-foot canopy recommendation — including Del Norte, Sonoma, Humbolt, and Santa Cruz. The model bill thus protects patients and caregivers from arrest if they posses 12 or fewer plants, but it makes no distinction between immature and mature plants.

The amount of dry marijuana a patient may possess without risking arrest — two and one-half ounces — is based on Maine's limit. That amount was passed by Maine's legislature, after it found that the one-ounce limit enacted by popular initiative was insufficient. In comparison, the federal government provides the seven medical marijuana patients a half-pound per month — or two ounces of marijuana per week.

Both the dry marijuana limit and the plant limits are identical to the limits enacted in Rhode Island by the Rhode Island General Assembly.

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