California: reversals for medical cannabis in courts, city councils

Posted on July 29th, 2012 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , , , , , , , , .

CaliforniaOn July 25, the Los Angeles, the City Counted voted 14-0 to ban medical marijuana dispensaries. Each of the 762 dispensaries that have registered with the city are to be sent a letter ordering them to shut down immediately under threat of legal action. Cannabis advocates packed the council chambers and met the vote with jeers; more than a dozen LAPD officers were called in to quell them. Under the ban, medical patients and their caregivers will be able to grow and share cannabis in small groups of three or less. In a seemingly contradictory move, the council also voted to instruct city staff to draw up an ordinance that would allow a group of about 170 dispensaries that registered with the city several years ago to remain open. (LAT, July 24)

Del Mar City Council begrudges initiative

On July 18, the Del Mar City Council voted to place the citizens' initiative for safe access to medical marijuana on the November ballot—their hand forced by a signature drive. The initiative was brought before the council last month after the Patient Care Association certified it by collecting well over the required 10% of residents' signatures. The council at that time voted to order a report on the initiative, buying them 30 days to make a decision on passing the ordinance or ordering an election. At a special council meeting on the 18th, councilmembers received the report, heard public comment, and voted to put the initiative on the ballot. Angry councilmembers also passed a resolution allowing them to write a rebuttal. 

The extremely critical report was prepared by Deputy City Attorney Robert Mahlowitz, who had previously filed lawsuits against dispensaries in both Del Mar and nearby Murrietta, where he also works. Activists charge the report failed to examine impacts related to patient access, and presented limited court opinions against medical marijuana, while ignoring the plethora of court opinions affirming its use.  The report summary concluded: "Distribution of marijuana is not authorized by California medical marijuana laws" and "Dispensary operations are targets of crime and will increase public safety costs." The report also categorized the regulation of dispensaries by the City of Del Mar as a threat to federal grant money—yet did not cite a single instance in which a California city regulating cannabis dispensaries had been denied a federal grant.  (Carmel Valley News, July 20; The Weed Blog, July 19; North County Times, July 18)

Federal judges dismiss dispensary lawsuits

Judges in each of California's four federal court districts have meanwhile turned down suits filed on behalf of dispensaries.  In October and November 2011, lawsuits were filed in the four districts seeking to halt federal enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act against dispensaries on a variety of grounds including Ninth and Tenth Amendments, the Equal Protection Clause and the Commerce Clause. Following separate proceedings in each district, four different federal judges have issued orders dismissing the cases.  "If there were persons who doubted that federal law clearly prohibits the cultivation and sale of marijuana, these decisions by four separate federal judges dismissing four lawsuits should put that doubt to rest," said US Attorney for the Eastern District of California Benjamin Wagner. "Our responsibility as US Attorneys is to enforce the Controlled Substances Act."

In the Eastern District, a lawsuit filed by the Sacramento Nonprofit Collective doing business as El Camino Wellness Center and co-plaintiff Ryan Landers, was dismissed by Judge Garland Burrell Jr. on Feb. 28. In the Southern District, a lawsuit filed by Alternative Community Health Care Cooperative Inc was dismissed on March 5 by Judge Dana Sabraw. In the Central District, Judge Dolly Gee dismissed a suit filed by the Conejo Wellness Center Cooperative Inc. et al. on April 17. Finally, in the Northern District, Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana et al. v. Holderfiled on behalf of three dispensaries, a landlord whose property was at stake, and one dispensary customer—was dismissed on July 11 by Judge Saundra Armstrong. (Lake County News, July 27)


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