California: Supreme Court Upholds Authority Of Cities To Prohibit Medical Marijuana Facilities

The California Supreme Court ruled today that municipalities possess the legal authority to prohibit the establishment of medical cannabis dispensaries.

The unanimous ruling upheld a 4th District Court of Appeals opinion (City of Riverside v. Inland Empire Patients’ Health and Wellness Center, Inc.) which held that local zoning measures banning the establishment of brick-and-mortar facilities that engage in the distribution of cannabis to state-authorized persons are not preempted by state law. Other lower courts had ruled against such local bans, arguing that cities can’t use zoning laws to bar activity legal under state law.

It is estimated that some 200 California cities presently impose moratoriums on medicinal cannabis facilities. At least 50 municipalities have enacted local regulations licensing dispensaries.

Opined the Court:

“We have consistently maintained that the CUA (the California Compassionate Use Act aka Proposition 215) and the MMP (the Medical Marijuana program Act) are but incremental steps toward freer access to medical marijuana, and the scope of these statutes is limited and circumscribed. They merely declare that the conduct they describe cannot lead to arrest or conviction, or be abated as a nuisance, as violations of enumerated provisions of the Health and Safety Code. Nothing in the CUA or the MMP expressly or impliedly limits the inherent authority of a local jurisdiction, by its own ordinances, to regulate the use of its land, including the authority to provide that facilities for the distribution of medical marijuana will not be permitted to operate within its borders.”

Although language included in Proposition 215 explicitly called for the state government “to implement a plan for the safe and affordable distribution of marijuana to all patients in medical need of marijuana,” to date, lawmakers have failed to enact any specific statewide regulations regarding the retail production and distribution of cannabis to those patients authorized to consume it.

Commenting on the ruling, California NORML Coordinator Dale Gieringer said, “The court essentially affirmed the status quo. 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. 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.”

Legislation is presently pending in both the California Assembly (AB 473) and Senate (SB 439) to impose statewide regulations governing the dispensing of marijuana produced for medical purposes.

Full text of the California Supreme Court’s opinion is available online here.

34 thoughts

  1. Last note: The 14th amendment actually creates a lower class of “citizen of the United States” rather than the higher Citizenship of one of the several states of the union. The remedy provided to the 14th amendment, is an act by congress known as 15 United States Statute at Large, July 27, 1868, one day before the 14th Amendment took effect and also known as the “Expatriation Statute.” This is your remedy to claim to be a natural Citizen of your state. This makes you a higher Citizen and no longer subject to the Article 4 loophole that also deprives you of your rights.

  2. Yup, we cannot let laws backslide people cannot get lax just because we’ve had victories.Right now in i MASS we are fighting the rules they want to set 10 dispenseraies that is 3 hours from one end of state to other then only certain ailment AIDS is covered but not chronic pain you get with AIDS, 2 OZ A MONTH NO 1 OZ A WEEK

  3. So, local government can decide if they want marijuana legal or not. Good, this is exactly how democracies work. This whole idea about “needing a federal policy” for marijuana is ridiculous.

    Just stop lying to people like histronics. How about barring histronics from positions of authority? If you can’t stop lying and manipulating everyone around you, you are considered unfit (George, Bill and Hilary)? Can we trust liars with money? No we can’t. Why even be worrying about a “national marijuana policy”, when everything the government says about pot was written by folks with scamming us and co-opting the government into breaking its own laws in mind?

  4. Will delivery services be affected by this ruling? Or only storefronts? I need my medicine somehow…

    [Paul Armentano responds: Since, in theory, delivery services would not be subject to municipal zoning laws, then one would not think that this ruling would apply to them.]

  5. Frankly, I think that’s fine. Those cities will come around soon enough, as soon as they notice the tax revenue they are losing to their neighboring burgs.

  6. If this was fast food “dispensaries” I doubt this ever would have passed. The blatant bigotry against cannabis consumers is really getting old. If you don’t want fast food or cannabis, then don’t consume it, simple. But we can not have a free society as long as we are trying to shut certain people out of it.

  7. Hey all u ( D-A ) What do expect? They know that u pot head are way to stupide to go regster and vote. Seem like every time Imeet a persoon that smoke pot are not regster voter.So the reason why cannabis is still out law is because all of u ( D-A ) Wont regster to vote. And the ones of us that are regster to vote . Well when they tell u they will not regster to vote for what every reason. Just SLAP THE DOG CRAP OUT OF THEM. Then walk over them that all the respect they should get.

  8. It seems that the Feds, and the courts they apparently control, have a different definition of “Democracy” and “Will of the People” than the people themselves have. Don’t tell me that the people are the Feds! They are a different breed and have little in common with the average American who actually works for a living and wants to relax in peace after a hard days work.

  9. Who elected these judges? I bet these are the same judges that made it illegal to throw a football on a beach! I have never seen any issues at any collective I visited in CA. They always maintain such a low profile, some you would not even know exist unless you have inside sources. If their profile is such a problem, I THINK WE NEED A LAW TO BAN STARBUCKS AND MCDONALDS! Furthermore, any city that bans collectives should have their funding from the Feds and State Reduced by the amount the collectives were paying in taxes last year! Next year the legal system will be crying about the state debt again!

  10. Ok. So force cities to zone marijuana dispensaries in accordance to state law.
    Industrial hemp needs to be zoned as well to protect prime farmlands for food crops.
    Don’t just stand there city officials; zone something! Don’t be scared; the DEA got kicked out of Mexico, I’m sure we can kick them out of our states and regulate the borders regulating a legal cannabis trade where they belong.

  11. Oh yeah, and California? Petition and vote out your city council if they seek prohibition. United we stand.

  12. So since this is banning people’s medicine, does that mean they can ban pharmacies too…not that they would, but it’s the principle of the thing. I think the legalization push is needed…however, we should really be pushing for supporting one’s right to medicate as one needs and get cannabis rescheduled. Anywhere from 60% up, depending on region, solidly support the usage for medical purposes…this should be nationwide. It is ridiculous that people may have to either not travel to certain states or forego their medicine.

  13. It’s time to take more notice on local elections. That is where the U.S. Bill of Rights doesn’t seem to apply.

  14. This decision otherwise affirms the legality of dispensaries under state law. Let’s now work on a concurrent low-cost regulatory scheme that’s state-mandated, and doesn’t require licensees to keep personal information on file.

  15. The court did its job, interpreted both 420 and 215 against the state constitution. I do NOT agree with the outcome, but it is time to put local politicians on notice that their future aspirations to statewide office are DEAD if they don’t allow dispensaries.

    THEN we change the state law. But we can’t count on Sacramento, the Jerry Springer Show of state legislatures. Keep the pressure on local politicians and the state will come around.

    Yeah…register and vote early and often.


  16. “Douglas says:
    May 7, 2013 at 5:13 am
    Hey all u ( D-A ) What do expect? They know that u pot head are way to stupide to go regster and vote.”
    Uh ya thats why medical marijuana is legal in 18 states and D.C. right? Why dont you learn to spell before you call someone stupide (its actually spelled stupid). you couldnt slap the dog crap out of a dogs butt you weak little moron

  17. Wait a minute. State elections affect the entire state. If a municipality turns its nose upward from state law, then they should not receive any benefits from state revenues gotten from those industries they wish to ban. If they decide to arbitrarily deny places for this commerce, They should not benefit from such commerce if they seek to limit such endeavors.

  18. Esteemed Mr Polis
    Recently a judge in PA been convicted of
    illegally accepting money from a private juvenile detention .
    He sentenced thousands of young people to incarceration that otherwise would otherwise have had much
    lighter sentences or been found innocent.
    Cant a case to that effect be founded against our law makers
    and the lobbyist who perpetuate the prosecution of weed laws.
    on behalf of the American people .
    The people vs the state .
    best regards .joe .

  19. sigh, to some, well MOST of you.

    MOST of you need to understand how a Democracy works. Allowing local govts to craft their own personnel pot laws is 100% exactly how it should be.

    I live in one of the most backward states with its marijuana views in the nation, and find it hilarious that some of you are crying cuz you have to drive 10 extra miles to get you meds legally, or that you may be forced to use a “delivery service”

    boo-hoo, cry me a river

  20. I’m a local Riverside patient. I medicate for my arthritis and severe migraines. I was just now beginning to feel comfortable purchasing from a dispensary/collective. I was always afraid that they would get raided or something. Now, because I don’t always have the money to pay for the minimum donation that most delivery services require… I have to expose myself to messing street dealers in dark alleys and exposing myself to getting robbed or resorting back to pain meds which hurt my stomach and makes my breath smell weird. Also, the city itself is giving power and the money back to the nasty street dealers, drug cartels and mafias. That’s BS, excuse my language.

    Does anyone know if anywhere where I can start being an active member in the fight to bring back our right to dispensaries/collectives in Riverside, California? Please help. Thanx 🙂

  21. The Supreme Courts at the state and national levels are supposed to protect our freedoms, not eagerly help the various Congresses and police forces to undermine them. There is no balance of power anymore. That said, I’m hoping to see the tenor of the rhetoric turn from emphasizing “how our democracy died” to “remind us again why pot a bad thing”. The straight parents and law-givers don’t seem to hear the arguments about personal liberties and just cover their ears because of feeling too threatened by something new.

  22. Reasonable ruling; unfortunate consequences. City Hall is much easier to influence than the state Capitol, though! Get to it!

  23. trying to say that crime has gone up in San Bernardino because of marijauna dispensaries BS…im born and raised here… and its been f**ked up since i was a little kid and its gonna get worse cause everybody is just gonna go back to there local street dealer which means more drug traffic from mexico…DUMBASSES!!!

  24. trying to say that San Bernardino county crime is high cause of med dispensaries…BS!!!its been f**ked up since i can remember…now everbody is just gonna back to its local street dealer which means more drug traffic from Mexico DUMBASSES!!! PS get rid of the crackheads 1st there the ones making r city look bad

  25. Come on now people. I agree that this ruling sucks, but lets not get carried away. People talking like they will be buying weed right from mexican cartell members in dark ally’s and being raped and robbed is a little far fetched. The weed coming over the border is still lowgrade brick weed for the most part and that is not medicine. The medical grade will still be grown locally. It will be harder to get but it will still be there. You will either have to take a long drive to a city that hasnt banned, or start doing what we all use to do. Call a friend who knows a guy who can get some weed. then you go to some strangers house and wait while they take your money probably to someone elses house that will take the money from him and probably take the drive to a dispensary. By the time you get your meds so many claws have ripped into it I guess you really did get robbed, but come on now.

  26. Also if anyone is having a hard time affording the minimum purchase from delivery services maybe you have friends who are patients (or you can try and meet someone on weedtracker or weedmaps) and put your money together.

  27. They’ve used cannabis as a scapegoat for so damn long, it’s almost automatic for some people to blame cannabis for many/most/all of society’s faults and ills. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that cannabis, even when legal under medical marijuana laws will still have a negative stigma attached.

    Local govt’s have a say in where Walmarts superstores can be located because they affect traffic. They can decide that they don’t want a topless doughnut shop in their town. And they can make slippery slope arguments that dispensaries move in then before you know it the heroin and crack dispensaries will pop up everywhere by the thousands–it’s that dreaded gateway dispensary effect. DARE to be indoctrinated and lied to.

  28. This could cause scarcity,and that will probably raise the price of a gram to $20+ for some over rated OG Kush. The dispensary owners that have the ball’s to continue operating despite the legal threats, will make out big as well as the illicit cartel’s.Meanwhile the honest and lawful dispensary owners as well as the patients in need, get shafted.

    Let’s hope that the cities that do permit dispensaries,notice that their economies benefit from the increased traffic of consumers that support their local businesses,not that this is a concern with the government,they follow their own mysterious agenda’s,that have nothing to do with the will of the people.They only cater to the dyslexic 1% that play the stock market- like an alcoholic in Vegas


  30. @dezznutz1001 – All of central California has banned dispensaries, so instead of 10 miles, some may not be available for 200+ miles. Cities are now likely to ban more as the pressure is put towards them instead of the state to regulate. Delivery services aren’t always a good option for people for a multitude of reasons. This ruling has big implications for MMJ here in CA.

  31. Unconstitutional applications of LAW – EQUAL ACCESS – EQUAL RIGHTS – ANTI TRUST – UNFAIR BUSINESS PRACTICE – DISCRIMINATION – and PERSECUTION of MARIJUANA USERS – HOW long must this be allowed to GO ON ? I have spent my whole life PERSECUTED because of WEED !!! CALIFORNIA is a NAZI PRISON CAMP – DEA th CAMP

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