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CA Supreme Court Recognizes Legality of Medical Marijuana Dispensaries But Allows Local Bans

Sam Sabzehzar 2013-05-07 0 comments

Patient advocates respond with Sacramento press conference, during a lobby day for statewide regulations with a coalition of patient advocates, labor and industry, and other stakeholders

By Kris Hermes  |  Published in Americans for Safe Access

UFCW’s Dan Rush (center) and Americans for Safe Access Executive Director Steph Sherer (right) at CRMM’s Lobby Day and Press Conference in Sacramento, CA.

The California Supreme Court ruled today in the case City of Riverside v. Inland Empire Patients Health and Wellness Center that local governments may ban the distribution of medical marijuana and are not preempted by state law by doing so.

However, the court also recognized the legality of dispensaries, more than 1,000 of which currently exist and operate throughout the state.

More than 50 localities in California officially regulate the distribution of medical marijuana, while nearly 200 cities ban the activity outright.

Notably, the court emphasized that, “nothing prevents future efforts by the Legislature, or by the People, to adopt a different approach.”

“While the California Supreme Court ruling ignores the needs of thousands of patients across the state, it simply maintains the status quo,” said Joe Elford, Chief Counsel with Americans for Safe Access, the country’s leading medical marijuana advocacy group, which filed an amicus ‘friend of the court’ brief in the¬†Riverside¬†case.

“Notably, the High Court deferred to the state legislature to establish a clearer regulatory system for the distribution of medical marijuana, which advocates and state officials are currently working on.”

In response to the ruling, Californians to Regulate Medical Marijuana (CRMM), a coalition of patient advocates, labor and industry, held a press conference in Sacramento to announce an action plan.

Scores of medical marijuana advocates were already in Sacramento for the second annual CRMM conference to lobby state legislators on establishing dispensary regulations in California.

Concurrent to the California Supreme Court decision in the Riverside case is a renewed effort by advocates and elected officials to seek medical marijuana reforms in Sacramento.

CRMM hosted a lobby day during which scores of advocates met with their state legislators to urge passage of pending medical marijuana regulatory bills such as SB 439, introduced by State Senate President Pro-Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento) and Senator Mark Leno (D-San Francisco), and AB 473, introduced by Assembly member Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco).

At the press conference, Harborside Health Center Executive Director Steve DeAngelo presented several mayoral letters, calling for statewide dispensary regulations.

Oral arguments occurred in February in the Riverside case, which is one of at least six similar appellate cases before the High Court, including County of Los Angeles v. Alternative Medicinal Cannabis Collective, 420 Caregivers v. City of Los Angeles, City of Lake Forest v. Evergreen Holistic Collective, City of Temecula v. Cooperative Patients Services, Inc., and People v. G3 Holistic.

Last July, ASA filed an¬†amicus ‘friend of the court’ brief¬†in the¬†Riverside¬†case on behalf of patients and against local bans.

Despite the outcome of the¬†Riverside¬†case, research has shown that well-regulated dispensaries decrease crime in surrounding neighborhoods, while providing a safe and legal means for patients to obtain their medical marijuana. “Patients should not be pushed into dark alleys in order to obtain a medicine that has been deemed legal by the voters of California,” said Don Duncan, ASA’s California Policy Director, “The ball is in the legislature’s court to establish statewide regulations that both meet the needs of patients and keep communities safe.”

Further information:

California Supreme Court ruling today:
List of local regulations and bans across California:
Mayoral letters urging action by the state legislature:
Regulatory bill SB 439:
Regulatory bill AB 473: