Back to top

California Appellate Court Reinstates Medical Marijuana Dispensary Ban Case – State law & AG guidelines allowing for local distribution validated and remain in effect

Daily Dose 2010-08-19 0 comments


Americans for Safe Access

**For Immediate Release:* August 18, 2010

*Contact:* ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford 415-573-7842 or ASA Media

Santa Ana, CA* — California’s Fourth District Court of Appeal

issued a long-awaited ruling today, choosing not to decide whether

localities can ban medical marijuana distribution, and remanding the

case back to Orange County Superior Court for further factual

development. While nearly four-dozen California localities —

including some of the most populous cities, such as Los Angeles,

Long Beach, Oakland, and San Francisco — have successfully

implemented ordinances regulating medical marijuana dispensaries,

more than 130 cities have imposed bans like Anaheim’s.

The unanimous decision, authored by Judge Richard Aronson, reversed

the trial court’s ruling that federal law preempts state law, but

failed to rule on whether Anaheim’s local ordinance could preempt

the state’s Medical Marijuana Program Act (MMPA). The ruling states

that because Proposition 215 and the MMPA “do not mandate conduct

that federal law prohibits, nor pose an obstacle to federal

enforcement of federal law, the enactments’ decriminalization

provisions are not preempted by federal law.” In a statement

favorable to the plaintiff, the court questions how “a city may

criminalize as a misdemeanor a particular use of property the state

expressly has exempted from ‘criminal liability,'” as it does in the


“While we understand the difficult nature of deciding this issue,

the court’s ruling delays a decision that will affect thousands of

patients who remain without access to their medication because of

hostile jurisdictions,” said Joe Elford, Chief Counsel with

Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the country’s leading medical

marijuana patient advocacy group, which filed briefs in the

/Anaheim/ case and argued before the Court of Appeal last September.

“The silver lining to this decision is that the court has reinstated

the lawsuit and is providing the plaintiffs the opportunity to prove

that dispensary bans are illegal under state law.”

The case /Qualified Patients Association v. City of Anaheim/ was the

result of a lawsuit filed shortly after Anaheim voted to ban

dispensaries in July of 2007. Qualified Patients Association was a

local medical marijuana dispensary that had been in operation for 5

months prior to the ban. An appeal was filed in March of 2008 after

the Orange County Superior Court ruled that Anaheim could prohibit

dispensaries from operating within its city limits.

The /Anaheim/ case has drawn a lot of attention as more and more

local governments have been forced to confront the issue of access

to medical marijuana. Despite guidelines recognizing the legality of

storefront dispensaries issued in August of 2008 by the California

Attorney General, multiple statewide law enforcement associations

filed briefs in support of Anaheim’s ban, as did nearly three-dozen


“We will continue to fight for the right of patients to access

medical marijuana through medical marijuana dispensaries, which is

provided for by the Medical Marijuana Program Act, previous case law

and guidelines issued by the California Attorney General,” continued

Elford. “Whether or not the Anaheim case is brought before this

court again, this issue will eventually be reheard and we are

confident of the eventual outcome.”

*Further Information:*

Today’s ruling in /Qualified Patients Association v. City of


Status of California city ordinances regulating and banning