A state appeals court has now ruled that cities and counties can ban medical marijuana dispensaries within their borders, thereby upholding local government authority when it comes to outright prohibition. This ruling was the first of its kind to address the legality of a citywide ban in direct and clear language. In previous cases there has been some level of ambiguity, as the issue has been tossed around in state courts for many years. The notable case originated out of Riverside. Impacted interests are already wondering whether the ruling will empower more cities and counties to change their approach to medical marijuana dispensaries and impose a ban of their own. That being said, the ruling is likely to be appealed to the state Supreme Court. While under state law patients are clearly allowed to use marijuana medically, the appeals court ruling essentially said that collectives who supply pot cannot be exempt them from local government’s authority to regulate land use. The LA Times reports:
“In the case, a three-judge panel in the 4th District Court of Appeal in Riverside rejected an appeal from Inland Empire Patient's Health and Wellness Center and concluded that the state's medical marijuana laws do not prevent cities and counties from passing regulations on dispensaries, including bans. The judges also issued a nearly identical unpublished opinion Wednesday, upholding Upland's ban. The decisions closely follow another appellate court ruling that said Long Beach could not adopt any regulations that amount to authorizing dispensaries because marijuana remains illegal under federal law.”
One expert believes that recent rulings show the tide is turning against medical marijuana operations and that local governments are leading the way. While plenty of entities will push for more answers on this contentious issue, Riverside officials got the answer they wanted to hear and will now move to shut down any dispensaries operating in the city’s boundaries. City Atty. Gregory Priamos commented that "We're extremely pleased that the court recognized and respected local land use and zoning authority."
Many city officials have alreaday noted that the case will cause them to rethink their approach to dispensaries when it comes to enforcing bans. Take Rancho Mirage--coverage can be seen here.