Local governments in California are free to ban the distribution and sale of marijuana for medical purposes despite state law that allows it under certain circumstances, the California Supreme Court ruled Monday.
A unanimous high court declared that neither of the two state statutes governing the manufacture, distribution and use of medical marijuana prohibits a city or county from invoking a total ban on it.
The case stemmed from the city of Riverside imposing a ban on medicinal marijuana dispensaries in 2010. Riverside lawmakers invoked city zoning powers to declare storefront pot shops as public nuisances when they banned the operations. The Inland Empire Patient’s Health and Wellness Center sued to stop the city from shutting it down.
Americans for Safe Access, an advocacy group, lists 193 other cities that ban medical pot shops and 20 counties. In the Sacramento region, Davis, Elk Grove, Folsom, Lincoln, Lodi, Nevada City,Rocklin, Roseville, Wheatland, Woodland and Yuba City have imposed such bans, as have Amador, Butte, El Dorado, Nevada, Placer, Sutter and Sacramento counties.
Associate Justice Marvin R. Baxter, writing for all seven members of the court, said California’s statutes tried to strike a delicate balance in a controversial area of federal and state relations.
California laws “remove state level criminal and civil sanctions from specified medical marijuana activities,” he wrote in a 42-page opinion, “but they do not establish a comprehensive state system of legalized medical marijuana, or grant a right of convenient access to marijuana for medicinal use, or override the zoning, licensing, and police powers of local jurisdictions, or mandate local accommodation of medical marijuana cooperatives, collectives or dispensaries.”
The opinion is an affirmation of a state court of appeal ruling that was appealed to the Supreme Court.
The Associated Press reports that the court decision might not be the last word on the issue. Pending legislation would establish a new statewide system for regulating and licensing the medical marijuana industry and clarify the role of dispensaries in it. It reported that activists also are in the early stages of planning a ballot initiative that would legalize the recreational use of marijuana and regulate it like alcohol, as voters in Washington and Colorado states did last year.