California dispensaries get mixed news from high court

By Jeremy Daw,

Licensed and permitted cannabis dispensaries are legal in California — but local governments can also ban dispensaries — after the state Supreme Court handed down a double-edged ruling May 6, 2013. The City of Riverside v. Inland Empire Patients Health and Wellness Center, Inc. ruling, S198638, held that state law “implicitly permits local regulation of medical marijuana facilities.”

Whereas hundreds of local dispensaries are in compliance with the state’s Medical Marijuana Program (commonly known as SB420), the ruling now gives a green light to the more than 80 municipal governments seeking to use land-use ordinances to block cannabis storefronts from operating.

The case revolved around the decision by the Southern California city of Riverside to ban dispensaries as a prohibited land use and demand that the IEPHWC close its doors. The center fought the injunction in court, where both the trial and appellate judges ruled against it.

Rejecting the dispensary’s argument that the state’s voter-approved Prop 215 or the legislature’s SB420 preempted counties and cities from banning dispensaries, the unanimous opinion written by Justice Marvin Baxter stated in part, “Nothing in [Prop. 215] or [SB420] expressedly or impliedly limits the inherent authority of a local jurisdiction, by its own ordinances, to regulate the use of its land, including the authority to provide that facilities for the distribution of medical marijuana will not be permitted to operate within its borders.”

In the wake of their appellate victory, Riverside City Council voted to prohibit dispensaries from making deliveries within city limits. The new law, which went into effect immediately, has already been met with resistance by some local dispensaries, which have apparently continued their deliveries in defiance of the ban.

Medical marijuana advocates are going back to the legislature to try to address the issue. “With our neighbors in Nevada requiring that each county must have at least one dispensary, it is a ‘Jim Crow’ policy for California localities to be allowed to discriminate against patients,” said Chris Conrad, director of Safe Access Now. — News Service

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