California Supreme Court Takes On Second Medical Marijuana Case

The California Supreme Court will be taking on a second medical marijuana case, with the stipulation that a hearing on that case be deferred pending a decision in the first. justice.jpg

Los Angeles medical marijuana lawyers are watching both cases closely, as they both strike at the heart of the issue of whether cities can legally ban medical marijuana dispensaries that are operating legally under state law.

The first case, City of Riverside v. Inland Empire Patient’s Health & Wellness Center Inc., is an appeal from a dispensary regarding earlier decisions from both the trial and appellate courts favoring the City of Riverside in its decision to ban the Inland Empire medical marijuana dispensary for being a public nuisance, per a city ordinance.

The Inland Empire Center contends that the ordinance is in fact preempted by state law – specifically, the Compassionate Use Act of 1996, Health & Safety Code 11362.5, and the Medical Marijuana Program under Health & Safety Code 11362.7-11362.83.

In the Temecula case, the Cooperative Patient Services Inc. is fighting a decision by the appellate court to support the city’s pattern of denying a business license to the dispensary, citing the city’s injunction against medical marijuana dispensaries – in spite of state law.

Back in March, federal agents raided Cooperative Patient Services and seized all of its products, saying the dispensary was operating as a for-profit facility, in violation of state laws.

Interestingly in the second case, despite the city’s victory, the appellate decision had not been unanimous. Dissenting Associate Justice Jeffrey King said in his opinion that even though a city has the right to regulate and restrict the location of a medical marijuana operation, the city is not legally allowed to prohibit its existence entirely.

We hope that this would set the tone for a favorable decision from the state Supreme Court, which announced on Dec. 14 that it would accept the Temecula case.

Of course, it’s also worth noting that the issue of a local government’s authority to impose restrictions, regulations or an outright ban is only one layer to this onion. You also have the issue of federal law with which to contend. Federal law views marijuana as a Schedule I narcotic, illegal to possess or distribute under all circumstances.

Medical marijuana advocates are hoping that states’ rights prevail in both instances, though the U.S. Supreme Court has yet to accept a case on the issue of marijuana – medicinal or otherwise.

The state Supreme Court’s announcement comes on the heels of President Barack Obama’s pledge not to pursue charges against recreational users of marijuana in states like Washington or Colorado where voters have approved measures to legalize the drug. However, those who cultivate and distribute the drug – for any purposes – fear federal trafficking charges, which could potentially result in years in prison.

At the president’s behest, the U.S. Attorney General’s Office is examining how to address the conflict between positions held by these states and the federal government.

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

Additional Resources:
MEDICAL MARIJUANA: Cal Supreme Court takes Temecula case, Dec. 18, 2012, By Richard K. DeAtley, Riverside Press Enterprise
More Blog Entries:
Medical Marijuana in America: A History, Dec. 19, 2012, Los Angeles Marijuana Lawyer Blog