Bay Area County Stops Medical Marijuana Program Based on Court Case

Mendocino County officials have suspended a program to distribute medical marijuana cultivation permits based on a Los Angeles court ruling that challenges whether permits should be issued by local governments for activities that federal law says are illegal, the Associated Press reports.

This is major news for the Los Angeles medical marijuana industry because if other cities and counties follow suit, this could be especially disruptive for not only the businesses dealing with this drug, but also the patients who rely upon it.
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It’s likely that experienced Los Angeles medical marijuana attorneys will be needed to step in and fight on behalf of the patients, collectives and dispensaries that are threatened by this action. Mednocino County is north of San Francisco Bay.

According to the news report, the permits in that county allow medical marijuana collectives to stock up to 99 plants under a structure that requires inspections and identification for each plant with zip ties. The permit application and inspection cost $1,500 and each zip tie issued costs another $50. Sheriff’s officials conduct monthly inspections and those cost between $300 and $600 per month.

The county sheriff raked in $660,000 during a six month period based on the program, the report states. But county officials told the sheriff to suspend the program this year after a case out of Los Angeles — Pack v. Superior Court of Los Angeles. A state appellate court ruled that the Los Angeles local governments lack the authority to continue permitting medical marijuana. The California Supreme Court has a deadline of Feb. 8 to decide whether it will hear the case.

The dispute is based on challenges to officials in Long Beach, who created an ordinance that requires permits for medical marijuana collectives. As in this county, it charged fees for permits, but it has paid back about $700,000 in fees since then.

Given that medical marijuana in California is such a big issue, it would seem logical that the supreme court would look at the case and make a ruling either way. The additional pressure from federal prosecutors in the past year makes this is a legal topic subject to much debate.

“The Pack court also stated that Cities could be in compliance with Federal law if they passed laws which “further restrict” the medical marijuana laws of the State,” said CANNABIS LAW GROUP Attorney Damian Nassiri. “Such as restricting their hours of operation from 10am to 6 pm or restricting their location. These types of laws would not be preempted by Federal law because they are not in conflict with the federal laws.”

If the state’s high court rules that local governments don’t have the authority to regulate medical marijuana cultivation or distribution, it could derail the entire industry. It may be more likely that the court could rule that governments simply can’t charge fees to these businesses.

And that could actually be good for the industry. If fees are waived, these businesses may end up better able to survive and serve patients. Prices would go down for patients and everyone would benefit.

But anytime there is a court case hanging in the balance, one has to wonder what will happen and what affect it will have on the entire industry. One case can affect thousands of people throughout California.

The smart thing for cities and counties would be to continue doing business as usual until a final ruling is made on this case. Other courts could have different opinions and what is a decision in one court could change within a matter of months. Our Los Angeles medical marijuana lawyers will continue monitoring this case and bring the latest information to our Marijuana Lawyer Blog.

The CANNABIS LAW GROUP offers experienced and aggressive representation to the medical marijuana industry in Los Angeles, throughout Orange County and elsewhere throughout Southern California. Call 714-937-2050 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

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Medical Marijuana Patients Still Being Harassed By California Police: December 27, 2011