Long Beach Wins Battle to Ban Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

Long Beach city officials have prevailed in their fight to ban medical marijuana dispensaries within city limits, according to the Long Beach Press-Telegramgavel21

The California appellate court decision did not surprise anyone. This litigation, filed four years ago, was a challenge to the city’s ban on dispensaries based on the argument that the action was a violation of the rights of the disabled.

The reason the outcome, handed down by the Court of Appeal, was no surprise was that it had been filed prior to the California Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in City of Riverside v. Inland Empire Patients Health and Wellness Center, Inc. In that case, the state high court ruled that the state’s medical marijuana laws do not prohibit cities from enacting a ban on the operation of local marijuana dispensaries within that city’s borders. 

That decision was telling not only for medical marijuana dispensaries, but it also set the precedent for the legal landscape that will exist if and when recreational marijuana is approved. It will mean even as state laws become more permissive, cities will still have the authority to restrict or even ban the sale of it where they have control to do so.

Medical marijuana attorneys in Long Beach know this is an important reason why the focus of real change efforts have shifted from court action to legislative action. Given the decision in Riverside, cities’ rights to enact bans is solidified. That means we have to fight to make sure those bans don’t go into effect in the first place.

This November, there are ballot initiatives throughout the state that would not only allow for medical marijuana dispensaries in California cities to operate, but also establishes clear regulation guidelines for those local operations.

In the Long Beach case, marijuana lawyers had argued in a 43-page class action lawsuit that the city’s ban on marijuana dispensaries undercut the rights of the disabled under the Americans With Disabilities Act. This was, plaintiffs argued, an infringement of their 5th Amendment rights. It was also alleged the city violated the rights of existing dispensaries by use of threats, coercion and intimidation.

After the trial court granted summary judgment to defendant city, the court of appeals affirmed, basing the decision primarily on the Riverside ruling.

The legal reasoning of that case holds that while the state laws invest one with the right of personal use of medical marijuana, the law does not establish a substantive right to found and operate a dispensary. There is no explicit right under state or federal law to lease property on which to operate a marijuana collective or dispensary.

Meanwhile, there are a number of ballot initiatives pending that challenge the Long Beach marijuana ban.

As The Long Beach Post reported, city leaders voted to uphold the ban in February. Just a few weeks later, a group of pro-marijuana advocates introduced the Long Beach Medical Cannabis Facilities Act of 2016, which has since qualified to be on the ballot with a sufficient number of signatures.

The most recent version of the city ordinance allows delivery-only services in the city’s boundaries.

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 wins lawsuit filed over ban on medical marijuana dispensaries, July 18, 2016, Staff Report, Press Telegram

More Blog Entries:

Supreme Court May Have Just Expanded Unlawful Police Searches, June 27, 2016, Long Beach Marijuana Lawyer Blog