California court rules cities can ban dispensaries

Posted on November 12th, 2011 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , , , .

CaliforniaCalifornia's Fourth District Court of Appeal ruled Nov. 11 that state law allows cities and counties to ban cannabis dispensaries. Other courts have upheld local government authority to restrict the location of dispensaries or declare a temporary moratorium, but the new ruling, in a case from Riverside, was the first to address a citywide ban. Riverside banned dispensaries in 2009 and sought to shut down the Inland Empire Patients' Health and Wellness Center, in May 2010. A Superior Court judge ruled in the city's favor six months later, but the center has stayed open during its appeal. The appeals court ruling found that state law allows medical patients to use cannabis and form collectives to supply it, but does not exempt them from local government authority to regulate land use. (LAT, SF Chronicle, Nov. 11)

Last month, the Second District Court of Appeals in a related case concerning Long Beach left the municipality with two options, according to a report from the city attorney's office: Repeal the city's medical marijuana ordinance and move forward with a ban on dispensaries or temporarily suspend the ordinance to allow time for legal clarification. The appeals court found a city cannot require a permit as a condition of operating a cannabis collective because the authorization is an obstacle to the federal Controlled Substances Act. (Tahoe Daily Tribune, Nov. 11)

The Fourth District decision comes one day before a 45-day deadline announced by federal authorities last month for the state's most prominent dispensaries to close or face prosecution.  Patient advocates have launched suits in the state's four federal court districts challenging the ultimatum. The lawsuits argue that the federal government's threats conflict with an agreement that led a federal judge to dismiss a lawsuit by patients with the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana in Santa Cruz over a 2002 raid. In the agreement, the government said it would not use federal resources against medical marijuana patients who complied with state law.

"The government's irrational policy has reached a breaking point," said Matthew Kumin of NORML. "The federal government said it will not prosecute patients, and yet they want to shut off their supply. This doesn't make sense. (BBC News, Nov. 11; Sacramento Bee, Nov. 10; LAT, Nov. 8)



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