In 420 Caregivers v. City of Los Angeles California’s 2nd District Court of Appeals overturned a lower court injunction barring the City of Los Angeles from enforcing its 2010 ordinance regulating medical marijuana dispensaries.
Our Los Angeles medical marijuana lawyers note a different three-judge panel of the same court just ruled Los Angeles County’s ban is illegal because it runs afoul of the voter-passed state law that legalized medical marijuana and permits the establishment of dispensaries for its distribution. That case is County of Los Angeles v. Alternative Medical Cannabis Collective (AMCC).
The Los Angeles city ordinance had sought to regulate the number of medical marijuana dispensaries in the city, primarily by closing down those that had opened since 2007 as well as those that failed to properly register. The city had been considering a ban after a federal court ruled municipalities cannot regulate an industry illegal under federal law. However, the County of Los Angeles v. Alternative Medical Cannabis Collective (AMCC) decision, which struck down the ban at the county level, now has plans of a ban in limbo.
In a victory for the dispensaries, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Anthony Mohr prevented enforcement of parts of the ordinance in December 2010, citing equal protection violations. In truth, the city’s ordinance was an utter disaster — which would have forced the closure of hundreds of dispensaries, including some of the city’s best and most well-run facilities. He also said the city could not provide for criminal penalties for violating the ordinance. He also said shutting down collectives in the manner backed by the city was a violation of their due process rights and that recordkeeping and disclosure rules also violated the privacy clause of the state’s Constitution.
The city responded with what it called its “temporary urgency ordiance.”
The court rejected all four of Mohr’s arguments. It found the city did not violate equal protection because it made a rational attempt to seperate those businesses that have been operating longer and were making an honest attempt to comply with the law. The court also found state law does not expressly forbid regulation. The court noted that while the case was pending lawmakers amended the law to permit civil and criminal enforcement.
As far as due process, the court found dispensaries and collectives that are shut down can seek protection through normal legal channels.
Los Angeles City Council will no doubt take both decisions into account in an effort to maximize the waste of tax dollars fighting this useless fight with its next move. A meeting is set for July 24. Consider:
-A court ruling forbidding cities from regulating dispensaries because marijuana is illegal under federal law.
-A ruling that found cities cannot forbid dispensaries because they are legal under federal law.
-And a ruling that once again could pave the way for a return to a plan of licensing and regulation.
It won’t be until the California Supreme Court weighs in that any amount of clarity will be provided. We don’t think that will stop L.A. City Council from charging ahead rashly without all the facts. But we can still hope common sense will prevail.
And, of course, a ruling in favor of the industry by the state’s high court will likely only set up a showdown with the federal government, which continues to pour tax dollars into enforcement efforts aimed at California’s legal medical marijuana industry.
The CANNABIS LAW GROUP offers experienced and aggressive representation to the medical marijuana industry in Los Angeles and throughout Southern California — including growers, dispensaries and collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call 949-375-4734 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.