The California Supreme Court unanimously ruled earlier today that cities and municipalities in that state can outright ban medical marijuana dispensaries.
The decision centers around the Inland Empire Patient’s Health and Wellness Center, which was shut down by the city last year after the city declared the dispensary a public nuisance. The court today ruled the city was within it’s legal rights to do it, opening the doors for all other cities in the state to ban medical marijuana shops if they want.
According to Americans for Safe access, there are about 190 California towns and cities that currently ban dispensaries already, and the decision today further strengthens the anti-MMC argument. Cities like Los Angeles, which have struggled with regulating dispensaries, now have more ammunition for their anti-cannabis fight.
For example, Garden Grove Mayor Bruce Broadwater said the only reason that his community east of Long Beach hasn’t enforced existing bans shops was because they couldn’t afford the legal fight. “We’re not enforcing our own laws because we don’t want to have big lawsuits,” said Broadwater. “We’re sort of in limbo until that case goes before the Supreme Court.”
The court said that there is nothing in the state’s medical marijuana laws preventing the bans and said that laws passed in 1996 merely created a defense for patients and caregivers against prosecution for possession.
“Nothing in [state marijuana laws]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,” the ruling states.
Justice Marvin Baxter said the decision to allow dispensaries or to ban them is best left to the local municipalities and said that what is best in some cities for patients might not work in other communities.
“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,” Baxter wrote.
But patient advocates say allowing bans is detrimental to patient health and well being. Patients in the Bay Area, for example, have to drive into one of the few cities left that allow dispensaries – like San Francisco or San Jose -for safe access.