Marijuana Dispensary Bans to be Weighed Soon by California Supreme Court

Long Beach city officials and those elsewhere are waiting anxiously for decisions by the California Supreme Court in two cases that could answer the question of whether it is legal for a city to ban marijuana dispensaries outright. gavel6.jpg

Our Los Angeles marijuana lawyers are watching closely as well.

The first case, City of Riverside v. Inland Empire Patient’s Health and Wellness Center, is slated to go before the court Feb. 5. Last year, an appellate court upheld the city’s legal authority to ban dispensaries. The dispensary owner is appealing.

The other case, City of Upland v. G3 Holistic Inc., involves the argument by dispensary attorneys that the city can’t legally bar dispensaries from operation because the state’s Compassionate Use Act, under Proposition 215, allows doctors to legally prescribe marijuana to patients.

Some cities have maintained that the Compassionate Use Act doesn’t matter because their authority with regard to local zoning laws grants them the power to close any type of operation that doesn’t follow certain strict guidelines.

At one time, there were an estimated 170 city and county-enacted bans in place across the state. One of those was in Long Beach. Another was in the county of Los Angeles and a second in the city. The latter was forced to be scrapped amid swift and severe opposition that included the approval of a ballot measure that would have outlawed the ordinance. That has left Los Angeles voters potentially deciding between one of three options with varying regulations in this spring’s election.

Attorneys for G3 say they are watching the Riverside case closely because whatever the court finds with regard to the first case, it’s likely to apply the same reasoning to the second. The appellate court’s support of the ban in the Upland case was based solely on zoning law authority, and did not consider the issue of whether the state’s ban violates the Compassionate Care Act.

Complicating matters is that different courts have decided in different ways. The Los Angeles County 2010 ban, for example, was struck down last summer after appellate court justices said that state law specifically allowed cooperatives and collectives to cultivate and distribute marijuana. Although state law allows local authorities to regulate the location or operational details of these facilities, the justices reasoned the law does not allow local officials to completely prohibit or make it impossible for all marijuana dispensaries to operate in a given area on the sole basis of what they do.

In 2011, a federal appeals court examining the Long Beach ban found that the city couldn’t regulate marijuana dispensaries at all, despite other cities’ attempts to do so, because it expressly violated federal law.

An attorney for the city of Long Beach has been quoted as saying that the state supreme court decisions regarding Riverside and Upland will be applicable to them as well, unless the court expressly states that it only applies to the specific case before them.

Many are anticipating though that the court will take this opportunity to provide cities with more guidance on the scope of the regulations they are allowed to enact, as that question has been the subject of conflicting debate throughout the state in recent years.

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

Additional Resources:
Long Beach awaits California Supreme court rulings on pot shop bans, Jan. 15, 2013, By Wes Woods II, Eric Bradley and Rick Orlov, Los Angeles Daily News
More Blog Entries:
Federal Forfeiture Decision Still Pending for Harborside, Jan. 5, 2013, Los Angeles Marijuana Lawyer Blog