Spittler and Farnham v. City of Clearlake – Medical Marijuana Cultivation Ban Challenged

Marijuana advocates are fighting back in court against a ban on medical marijuana cultivation in Clearlake. balance2.jpg

Plaintiffs in Spittler and Farnham v. City of Clearlake, before the Superior Court of California for Lake County, allege the ban is illegal under California law, which legalized the drug for medicinal use.

The litigation is supported by Cal NORML, which is the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. Although the lawsuit contains three plaintiffs, it was filed on behalf of all the city’s medical marijuana patients.

Those named plaintiffs include a former city councilwoman and her husband. Jeri Spittler suffers from fibrimyalgia, and is unable to take the usual medications prescribed for the condition. Her husband is reportedly recovering from Stage IV neck and throat cancer. The third named plaintiff is a woman who uses cannabis to treat symptoms from an aneurysm she suffered several years ago.

Our Los Angeles marijuana lawyers recognize this wasn’t exactly a surprise move. In fact, the leadership was warned that if it passed the cultivation ban legal action would be pursued. However, elected officials moved forward with the measure anyway, giving it the final approval in February.

Unless plaintiffs are successful in obtaining a court-ordered injunction on the ban, it will go into effect next month.

The city council’s majority indicated it had no choice but to pursue the ban. Previously, the city allowed up to six plants per residence in residential neighborhoods. However, they allege, violators kept stretching the limits, growing sometimes up to 100 or more. Neighbors complained about the smell and increased risk of crime.

Even the plaintiffs say they were bothered by those who were cultivating to excess. However, closing off the option for everyone wasn’t the answer. Other alternatives might have been initiating tougher enforcement. The previous law, plaintiffs allege, had no real teeth.

Clearlake isn’t the only city that has gone this route. Others include the city of Fresno and the city of Live Oak (in Sutter County).

City leaders contend the ban doesn’t prevent people from getting medicinal marijuana because they can still buy it from local dispensaries. However, many advocates argue the purchase of marijuana has become too steep for some patients, especially those who are already living on disability. What this measure does is effectively halt their access to a needed drug.

Advocates with NORML contend a ban on cannabis cultivation is a violation of Prop. 215, which ensures patients have safe and affordable access to the drug when it’s prescribed.

If the lawsuit is unsuccessful within the Superior Court, it can be appealed to the First Appellate District. It’s worth noting that district is not bound by the Maral v. City decision, which affirmed the city’s authority to enact a ban (in Live Oak).

A conflicting decision in a sister appeals court could likely mean the matter will be ultimately forwarded to the state supreme court.

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

Additional Resources:
CLEARLAKE MEDICAL MARIJUANA CULTIVATION BAN CHALLENGED IN COURT, March 19, 2015, California NORML
Spittler and Farnham v. City of Clearlake, March 19, 2015, Superior Court of California for Lake County
More Blog Entries:
D.C. Police Chief Says Marijuana Arrests Erode Community Relations, March 11, 2015, Los Angeles Marijuana Lawyer Blog