ASA Tells California Cities: Federal Law Can’t Stop Pot Shops



​An advocacy group for medical marijuana patients is warning California cities and counties that they cannot ban cannabis dispensaries on grounds that state and federal marijuana laws are in conflict.

Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the Oakland-based organization representing marijuana patients, has sent letters to 134 California cities and nine counties, urging them to lift local bans on marijuana dispensaries as a result of an August state appeals court ruling. The letter hints at potential legal actions to come, reports Peter Hecht of The Sacramento Bee.

Photo: ASA
Joe Elford, ASA: “I ask that you regulate medical marijuana dispensaries, rather than ban them. Otherwise, we will explore our legal options.”

​The California 4th District Court of Appeal, in a closely watched case challenging Anaheim’s dispensary ban, failed to resolve the central argument over whether cities can prohibit medical pot shops or be forced to accept them under state law.
But Anaheim couldn’t keep dispensaries out on the grounds that federal marijuana law supersedes California’s law legalizing medical cannabis, the 4th District Court ruled in sending the case back to a lower court.
“It is true that California and the federal government have conflicting views of the potential health benefits of marijuana,” wrote Judge Richard M. Aronson in the August 18 court decision.
“But… we discern nothing in the city’s compliance with state law that would require the violation of federal law,” the court ruled. “The federal CSA [Controlled Substances Act] does not direct local governments to exercise their regulatory, licensing, zoning, or other power in any particular way.”
The court ruling means “it is not lawful for localities to ban medical marijuana dispensaries absolutely, due to a preference for contrary federal law,” ASA chief counsel Joe Elford said in a letter to local governments barring pot shops.
“I ask that you regulate medical marijuana dispensaries, rather than ban them,” Elford told municipal officials in the letter.
“Otherwise,” Elford added, “we will explore our legal options.”