People v. Kelly: What Does it Mean for Patients?

Part 1 of 2: Law Enforcement Encounters

The California Supreme Court issued a unanimous published decision in People v. Kelly, striking down what it considered unconstitutional legislative limits on how much medical marijuana patients can possess and cultivate. The decision also affirms protection from arrest and prosecution for patients who both possess a state-issued identification card and comply with state or local personal use guidelines.

Although the court affirmed that qualified patients and their primary caregivers retain “all the rights afforded by the CUA [Compassionate Use Act of 1996],” law enforcement can still arrest and prosecute if probable cause exists. In keeping with the CUA, qualified patients and their primary caregivers will still have an affirmative defense in court.

What does Kelly mean for patients? There are a few things that remain unclear; what is clear is that holding a state-issued ID card and following the guidelines for possession and/or cultivation will prevent arrest.

  • If you are dealing with law enforcement, having a state ID card and having less medicine than the county or state guidelines should prevent you from being arrested or prosecuted.
  • The ID card is still an optional program, but having an ID can help in a law enforcement encounter.
  • NOT having an ID card might result in an arrest
  • Patients will have an additional defense to bring to court, if they are facing charges for possession over state or local limits. It will be the patient’s burden to prove that the amount they are charged with is medically necessary.
  • Medicann ID cards or ID cards issued by a dispensary are NOT the same as the state ID card. To find information about your county’s ID program, check out
  • San Diego County Medical Marijuana ID Card Program:

The bottom-line: play it safe by applying for the state ID card through your county’s Department of Public Health. Otherwise, you might have to defend yourself in court, which can be stressful, expensive, and time-consuming.

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