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.