The first of what we can expect to be many lawsuits over the recent marijuana dispensary decision by Los Angeles City Council has been filed in Los Angeles Superior Court.
L. A. marijuana lawyers understand this challenge is being brought forth by a local marijuana trade group and a group of nearly a dozen patients. They are seeking to block enforcement of the recently-enacted ordinance that would effectively shutter the vast majority of the city’s storefront marijuana shops by the first week in September.
Of course, the ultimate hope is to overturn the ban and restore rights to the estimated 750 registered dispensaries in the city. (It’s estimated another 200 or so don’t have the proper registration, although registration isn’t likely to matter with regard to the ban.)
It’s likely to be a protracted battle, though, as the move by city council is only the latest in a string of chaotic and conflicting court rulings, regulations and criminal and civil actions that have roped in everyone from critically ill patients and municipal governments to landlords, district courts and federal prosecutors. The hope is to eventually get the issue before the California Supreme Court to get a final and consistent ruling once and for all – possibly as early as next year.
But it’s been a slow march.
The city council, which voted 14-0 last week on the measure, claims the ban does not circumvent Proposition 19, which voters passed in 1996, making California the first state to legalize marijuana for medical purposes because patients can still cultivate the drug to be shared by groups of three. They are classifying this as a “gentle” ban.
The problem with this classification, according to the most recent suit brought by the Patient Care Alliance, is that it essentially amounts to an outright ban because it’s not practical for groups that small – or smaller – to grow medical-grade marijuana. Cultivation of medical marijuana is time and labor-intensive. Would you ask someone with a cold to create their own sinus medication? How about a terminally cancer patient who is home-bound or the person who cares for him or her 24/7?
The suit specifically seeks a temporary injunction from the ban. However, because the group did not request an “emergency action” on the issue, it’s likely not to be heard by the court for another four to six weeks – after which time, the ban will already be officially in effect.
While the city has sent out letters threatening criminal charges to any storefront dispensary that doesn’t close its doors by the deadline, it’s probable that the city won’t act to enforce the measure immediately, given the large number of shops that exist throughout the city – which has the most of any city in the country.
Some shop owners say they will remain open despite the ban because:
1. Some are awaiting or are even parties to pending court challenges that raise the question of whether the city is even allowed to enact such a ban;
2. Some are among the more than 180 locations that were open before the city enacted a moratorium on shops in 2007. They are hoping to be grandfathered in;
3. Some are hoping a ballot referendum will overturn the ban and allow them to save their shops before they are forced to close.
Another option for dispensaries might be to file a request for a temporary restraining order against the city – something dispensary owners should consult with an experienced marijuana lawyer about prior to filing.
The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 949-375-4734.