California Supreme Court Rules that Cities and Counties May Ban Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

In an opinion that the medical marijuana community has long been waiting for, the California Supreme Court held in City of Riverside v. Inland Empire Patients Health and Wellness Center, Case No. S198638, that California's medical marijuana statutes do not preempt local bans on facilities that distribute medical marijuana. The opinion, written by Justice Baxter, notes the "use, possession, cultivation, transportation, and furnishing of marijuana" are generally prohibited by both state and federal laws.  (Opn., pg. 1.) The Compassionate Use (CUA) and the Medical Marijuana Program Act (MMP) have "removed certain state law obstacles" for medical marijuana users. In contrast, the Court recognized that cities and counties have authority, pursuant to the California Constitution, to make and enforce ordinances that are not in conflict with general law, including ordinances for public health, safety and welfare, and "the appropriate uses of land within a local jurisdiction's borders, . . . "  (Opn., pg. 2.) 

The opinion notes the statutory scheme under both the CUA and MMP are "modest," "limited," and "specific."  (Opn., pgs. 11-12.) It also noted the Legislature has made no attempt to come up with a comprehensive statutory scheme, including one that would prevent cities or counties from enacting an absolute ban on collectives and dispensaries. The opinion concludes by stating, "Of course, nothing prevents future efforts by the Legislature, or by the People, to adopt a different approach." (Opn., pg. 38.)

Don't expect the Legislature to enact a comprehensive statutory scheme at any time in the near future, especially with the federal prohibition looming over its head. That means medical marijuana patients will either have to find cities that allow medical marijuana (few and far between), grow in themselves, or turn once again to illegal drugs. I am predicting that the sale of illegal drugs will increase, giving a huge bonus to the drug cartels and the prison systems.  A very disappointing, but not unexpected, result. You can find it here:


This article was authored by Donna Bader and was originally published by An Appeal to Reason. Ms. Bader is a Certified Specialist in Appellate Law. Since 1980, she has practiced exclusively in the area of civil appeals and writs, with an emphasis on medical and legal malpractice, and personal injury law.


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