Riverside Judge: Marijuana Ban is Unconstitutional

Marijuana dispensaries in Riverside are celebrating the victory of a recent decision by a County Superior Court judge, holding that the city’s ban on storefront marijuana sales is unconstitutional, due to state law. 429469_canabis_indica.jpg

Los Angeles marijuana lawyers have been closely following the case – one of numerous rulings throughout the state to indicate that such action by municipalities violates the rights of those who seek access to the drug for medicinal purposes.

This ruling further bolsters an earlier one handed down several weeks after another judge determined that the county’s ban on pot shops was not legally enforceable.

Some have indicated that this gives green light to all marijuana dispensaries to operate anywhere and everywhere in unincorporated Riverside County.

But the matter is complicated.

First of all, the most recent decision by Judge John Vineyard, handed down on Aug. 22, isn’t the last word. The city has said it will immediately appeal, reportedly calling the decision, “mind-boggling.”

So far, there are about 12 clinics in the city that are battling injunctions that would shut them down. The city has already shuttered about 35 or so.

One of those facilities, Closet Patient Care, has stayed open while fighting that injunction, which was handed down by city officials in January.

Back in November, the Fourth District Appellate Court in Division Two, which holds jurisdiction in both San Bernadino and Riverside Counties, had conversely determined that local governments could indeed bar medical marijuana dispensaries. Specifically, it permitted the ban in Riverside.

That decision was appealed, and the case is now pending before the state supreme court. Attorneys for Closet Patient Care have said that this new ruling means the November decision has been essentially vacated.

Attorneys for the city have said that isn’t true, and that one court of appeal’s ruling doesn’t automatically cancel out another. Rather, they contend that the matter is simply under review, but that the ban still stands.

These conflicting decisions are reflective of what has been occurring throughout the state: One court upholds a ban, another says it’s unconstitutional and meanwhile, federal authorities continue to crack down.

Although state law allows for use and sale of marijuana for medicinal purposes, per the 1996 Compassionate Use Act (or Proposition 215), both local and federal authorities continue to try to shut down these facilities. It’s estimated that so far, roughly 220 counties and cities have enacted some form of ban on storefront sales. Los Angeles became one of the most recent, with a 14-0 decision that amounted to what it classified as “gentle ban,” allowing for small groups of three patients to cultivate the plant collectively. That decision, too, is being battled on several fronts – including with a newly-filed lawsuit and a petition for a ballot measure to repeal it.

Additionally, federal authorities have taken aim at landlords who rent to the operations, using civil actions such as forfeiture to scare them into kicking out their tenants. Of course, this puts the landlords in a difficult position because they may be violating certain state and local laws by doing so.

The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.

Additional Resources:
RIVERSIDE: Judge says city can’t ban medical marijuana clinic, BY RICHARD K. De ATLEY, Press-Enterprise

More Blog Entries:
Expect More L.A. Marijuana Litigation in Coming Months, Aug. 16, 2012, Los Angeles Marijuana Lawyer Blog