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

May 6, 2013 UPDATED 11:15 AM - In a unanimous decision, the California Supreme Court ruled that local governments may ban medical marijuana dispensaries. In the decision, City of Riverside v. Inland Empire Patients Health and Wellness Center, the court ruled that California's state medical marijuana laws do not preempt the authority of local governments to regulate or bar the distribution of medical marijuana within their borders.

"While several California cities and counties allow medical marijuana facilities, it may not be reasonable to expect every community to do so," the court wrote. "While some counties and cities might consider themselves well suited to accommodating medical marijuana dispensaries, conditions in other communities might lead to the reasonable decision that such facilities within their borders, even if carefully sited, well managed, and closely monitored, would present unacceptable local risks and burdens."

Medical marijuana advocates were not surprised by the ruling, which effectively affirms the validity of scores of existing local ordinances limiting distribution of medical marijuana. "The court essentially affirmed the status quo," commented Cal NORML director Dale Gieringer. "Local governments may choose to allow or limit dispensaries as they please."

"The unfortunate result of this decision is to leave many needy patients without legal access to medical marijuana in their communities, thereby promoting illegal black market suppliers," Gieringer said. "It is time for the state and federal governments to step up to the plate and fulfill the mandate of Prop. 215 to implement a system of 'safe and affordable' access for all patients in medical need."

"The CUA [Prop. 215] and the MMP [SB420] create no all-encompassing scheme for the control and regulation of marijuana for medicinal use," the Court pointed out, adding, "though the Legislature stated it intended the MMP to 'promote; uniform application of the CUA and to 'enhance' access to medical marijuana through collective cultivation, the MMP itself adopts but limited means of addressing these ideals."

"Of course, nothing prevents future efforts by the Legislature, or by the People, to adopt a different approach," the Court concluded.

Two bills currently in the state legislature, AB473 (Ammiano) and SB439 (Steinberg), seek to better regulate medical marijuana throughout California.

Read the City of Riverside v. Inland Empire Patients Health and Wellness Center ruling.

Read more on the Riverside case.

Also see:
Decision: Inland Empire patients mourn likely closing of dispensaries

Supreme Court pot ruling may offer Vallejo new regulation freedoms

Court allows ban on med pot outlets

Pot ruling a setback, not defeat, attorney says

No impact on L.A. pot measures seen with high court ruling

How Will the California Supreme Court Ruling on Dispensary Bans Affect Me?

Victory for City's Medpot Dispensary Ban Is a Defeat for Residents

CA Supreme Court: Localities Can Ban Pot Dispensaries

California Supreme Court's May 6, 2013

How is it that this Court recently unanimously affirmed the supremacy of CUA 215 over any limitations legislated, such as in Prop. 420, now comes forward with a thinly disguised "gutting" of patients access previously approved?

The majority of California citizens support legal access to medical marijuana. This was affirmed in 1996, then reaffirmed later, in 1998, when CUA was challenged, with an even larger percentage of support for CUA 215. DID NOT THE STATE SUPREME COURT HEAR THIS? Either not, or the Court could be seen as classically schizophrenic, for example:
The Court ruled in Kelley v Los Angles District Attorney, unanimously in favor of Kelley, with the concurrence of the then State Attorney General, Jerry our Gov'nor, saying, basically, that voter approved law "trumps" legislated law. The majority of Californians want legal access to medical marijuana, yes!, that's what CUA 215 was all about. The Court's ruling then clearly indicated the Court agreed with us. Now comes this latest reversal from the bench.....geeeeez! Classic schizophrenia. Or, who's been taking the judges out to lunch lately!...wake-up California!

Laws are almost universally written with back door clauses, or containing vague enough terminology that depending on the debating skill of lawyers involved can ensure ruling either way...sadly. Case in point being the details within the Kelley decision, above.

Still, primacy here is the wish of the majority of voting California citizens to have legal access to acquire their medical marijuana...whoops, we did not add within CUA 215 that we wanted our legal access to be within which ever California community, or county we lived in, rationally thinking that such was implied when we voted to legalize access to start with. Now come the hair splitting attorneys who have gained the Court's reversal of support for access to medical marijuana through verbal legerdemain...OK! Here's what we now gotta do:

Once again, and finally, we must organize and pass voter driven/supported and approved at the ballot box wording that simply states "Medical marijuana access will not be denied to any citizen of California who has gained doctor approval for its use no matter what city or county he/she lives in. Citizens of California are citizens of the entire state without restrictions or limitations" on their freedom from one area to another."

And finally...

Part of living in a civilized, enlightened, progressive, state, such as California, is realizing that not everyone always agrees with everything about everybody; however, so long as we do not use our differences as social "weapons" against our neighbors, that is, we all realize living within community requires flexibility, "give and take", not always demanding every iota of every right, sometimes even giving more than is expected, in other words being somewhat tolerant, we find ourselves living in a healthily diverse society...which is at its essence what we call civilization. Otherwise, we find ourselves existing in a strife-torn, "us against them", collection of strangers living among strangers...not a civilization.

California has the ability, all the disparate ingredients, to show by example how the rest of our nation can come to realize not just the letter of democratic law, but, and perhaps more importantly, the dream and spirit of liberty's ideals, as well. We can start by securing the blessing of marijuana liberty for ourselves and our posterity.