Advocates Applaud Decision to Review Long Beach and Riverside Dispensary Regulation Cases
The California Supreme Court issued an order on Wednesday indicating it will review two controversial medical marijuana cases that have resulted in the suspension of several local dispensary ordinances across the state.
As a result of Wednesday’s order, Pack v. City of Long Beach and City of Riverside v. Inland Empire Patient’s Health and Wellness Ctr., Inc. have both been vacated in anticipation of the High Court’s ruling. The Pack decision held that some dispensary regulations may be preempted by federal law and the Riverside decision held that localities could legally ban distribution altogether.
Americans for Safe Access
Joe Elford, ASA: “These cases were very problematic for patients and their ability to safely and legally access a medication that works for them”
”These cases were very problematic for patients and their ability to safely and legally access a medication that works for them,” said Joe Elford, chief counsel of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a medical marijuana advocacy group. “We’re very pleased that local governments will now be unable to use appellate court decisions to deny patients access to medical marijuana in their own communities.”
Arguing that Pack was erroneously decided, ASA, along with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA), and the County of Santa Cruz filed a brief on December 12 requesting that the California Supreme Court review the case.
“The medical marijuana community applauds the Supreme Court’s decision to hear both cases, and hopefully, this will finally give cities in California the right to regulate medical marijuana in their communities, since many cities have chosen to ban or refuse to regulate medical marijuana because it’s federally illegal,” said Cheryl Shuman of KUSH Magazine.
According to Bob Selan, CEO of KUSH Magazine, the California Supreme Court has recognized that states’ rights issues are at the forefront of the safe access provisions that were inherent in Proposition 215, voted into law by Californians back in 1995.
The laws which were further codified in SB 420 in 2003 by the California Legislature have been the subject of several controversial lawsuits pitting the state’s medical marijuana laws against federal cannabis prohibition.
Although the Pack decision, issued in October of last year, contradicted other appellate court rulings, several cities and counties across California have used it as a reason to suspend regulatory ordinances or completely ban local distribution. In its latest crackdown on medical marijuana in California, the U.S. Justice Department has even cited the Pack decision as a reason why localities should not adopt distribution licensing ordinances.
One of the cases that contradicted Pack was the Riverside ruling issued in November, which held that medical marijuana distribution was not preempted by federal law, but cities could lawfully ban it. However, now that both decisions are out of play, local governments will now have less cover with which to implement or continue such bans.
“The Pack decision is a dead letter and can no longer be used to defy the implementation of state law,” Elford said.
It will likely be at least a couple of years before the Supreme Court rules on the cases. In the meantime, advocates will be urging their local governments to adopt regulatory ordinances that establish the means by which California’s hundreds of thousands of patients can obtain a medicine that is legal under state law.
A third medical marijuana dispensary case, People v. G3 Holistic, was also granted review by the Supreme Court on Wednesday.