Medical Marijuana Can Be Banned in Cities and Counties, California Supreme Court Says
California’s Supreme Court unanimously ruled on May 6, 2013 that cities and counties in the state may ban medical marijuana dispensaries within their borders. The ruling held that California’s medical marijuana laws do not prevent local governments from declaring dispensaries a nuisance and using land use and zoning laws to prohibit them.
“Facilities that dispense medical marijuana may pose a danger of increased crime, congestion, blight, and drug abuse, and the extent of this danger may vary widely from community to community,” Justice Marvin R. Baxter wrote in the 7-0 majority opinion. “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 argued that allowing local governments to bar dispensaries contradicts the intent of Proposition 215. According to Drug Policy Alliance Senior Staff Attorney Tamar Todd: “Today’s decision allowing localities to ban will likely lead to reduced patient access in California unless the state finally steps up to provide regulatory oversight and guidance. Localities will stop enacting bans once the state has stepped up and assumed its responsibility to regulate.”
According to the Marijuana Policy Project and the Drug Policy Alliance, two bills are pending in the California Legislature that would establish a new statewide system for regulating and licensing the medical marijuana industry, and to clarify the role of dispensaries in it. Advocates hope to see language that would make it harder for local governments to outlaw dispensaries by requiring voter approval for any bans, thereby lessening the impact of the Supreme Court’s decision.
CBS Los Angeles, “California Supreme Court Rules Cities Can Ban Pot Dispensaries,” losangeles.cbslocal.com, May 6, 2013
Marijuana Policy Project, “California Legislature Debates Medical Marijuana Policy,” mpp.org, May 3, 2013
Maura Dolan, “California Supreme Court Upholds Medical Pot Bans,” latimes.com, May 6, 2013
Lisa Leff, “Court: California Cities Can Ban Medical Pot Shops,” mercurynews.com, May 6, 2013
USA Today, “California Supreme Court: Cities Can Ban Pot Stores,” usatoday.com, May 6, 2013