Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Ruling by California Supreme Court

Medical Marijuana Dispensaries RulingMedical marijuana dispensaries may be on the California endangered list according to this Los Angeles Times article “The California Supreme Court gave local governments the power Monday to zone medical marijuana dispensaries out of existence, a decision that upholds bans in about 200 cities but does little to solve Los Angeles’ years-long struggle to regulate hundreds of storefront pot outlets.”

Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Facing Expensive Litigation

This decision was unanimous and provides cities and counties with the power to shut down any and all medical marijuana dispensaries should they choose to.  The Los Angeles Times article goes on to state; “Now, attorneys on both sides of the issue say, many cities will be inclined to ban the pot outlets rather than allow a limited number and regulate them — a practice that has spawned expensive litigation up and down California.”

“Only cities as liberal as Los Angeles will attempt to regulate,” said Los Angeles Special Assistant City Atty. Jane Usher. “Unless you are a city that enjoys being in the litigation business, I think bans will become the order of the day.”

Proponents of medical marijuana believe that this ruling will further confuse issues and create more litigation for cities, counties and medical marijuana dispensaries as dispensary owners have no way of knowing how to comply with ever changing regulations, which will in turn, block access to medicine to terminally ill patients.  What is more perplexing is the ruling did not specifically state that retail sales of medical marijuana were legal, but accepts the existence of medical marijuana dispensaries as a whole.  With this ruling, sick patients may now have to drive long distances to legally obtain their medicine.  However, most cities who do not want dispensaries have already shut them down, so the ruling may not change much in the way of how things are managed currently.

At this point, medical marijuana dispensaries are trying to comply with fly by night rules by cities and counties:  for example, “It’s been a roller-coaster,” said Greg Lefian, 37, from Long Beach, who closed his Chronic Pain Releaf in August. “He and his partners had invested more than $400,000, mostly in building costs to comply with a city rule that all marijuana sold had to be grown in-house.”  Long Beach changed its course of action and banned dispensaries altogether in August of 2012.

As reported in The Huffington Post,  “a bill to regulate California’s billion-dollar medical marijuana industry cleared a major hurdle Tuesday when the state assembly’s public safety committee voted to move it forward. AB 473, introduced by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), would require all pot-related entities, except for caregivers and patients, to follow rules to be created by the Department of Alcohol Beverage Control.”

As it stands, medical marijuana in California is “chaos,” Ammiano told The Huffington Post. “It’s never been regulated by the state as any other business. Cities and counties don’t know what to do or what they can do. Police are unsure how to respond, and the federal actions are confusing.”

A bill, by Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg (D-Sacramento), SB439, will seek to better regulate medical marijuana throughout California by setting security standards to protect dispensaries from being prosecuted for the sale of medical marijuana.  According to Network of Care “the summary of this bill exempts dispensaries and patients from certain criminal acts, and abates nuisance provisions for collectives and cooperatives organized and operated to cultivate and distribute medical marijuana for medical purposes.  Further, it exempts those entities and persons from criminal prosecution or punishment solely on the bases of the fact that they receive compensation for actual expenses incurred in carrying out these activities.”

This bill is still pending a decision, and will be reviewed once again, for the third time.  According to the LA Times, “In two weeks, Los Angeles will vote on initiatives that would limit the number of dispensaries to remain open. The city’s attempts to regulate have spawned more than 60 lawsuits.”

It is possible with this Supreme Court decision, rampant litigation surrounding medical marijuana, and the confusion regarding laws and regulations, that the city of LA could ban dispensaries entirely, as now they have the authority from the Supreme Court to do so.

It is clear that there will be more legal battles to come surrounding this issue.  Dispensaries open and close every day.  Cities and counties change their rules randomly, so that a dispensary will believe they are in compliance on one day, and then be closed down the next, only to try to work it out with the city/county another way, and be closed down once again.  The sale, transport and regulation regarding the legalities of medical marijuana dispensaries has not been legally defined to set a uniform standard so that the people of California can understand their legal rights in how to safely obtain, use, grow and purchase medical marijuana without being prosecuted. Further questions about California medical marijuana dispensaries or any other questions about medical marijuana in California can be answered by the Medical Marijuana Lawyers at Beck Law P.C.


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