In a unanimous decision the California Supreme Court ruled on May 6, that city and county governments have the legal authority to ban cannabis care centers.
The CSC ruled that local governments even retain the right to use zoning laws and other bureaucratic tactics to wipe care centers out of existence within their respected jurisdictions.
“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,” Justice Marvin Baxter wrote on behalf of the CSC.
The case before the CSC that triggered the decision stemmed from the city of Riverside unilaterally banning cannabis care centers in 2010. Two hundred other localities also passed local ordinances banning cannabis centers mostly for dubious reasons.
“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,” Tamar Todd, senior staff attorney for the Drug Policy Alliance told the Associated Press. “Localities will stop enacting bans once the state has stepped up and assumed its responsibility to regulate.”
Meanwhile in Sacramento, two bills moving are forward that would impose regulation standards for the entire state, which some on both sides of the issue, agree is needed.
“The irony in California is that we regulate everything that consumers purchase and consume, and somehow this has been allowed to be a complete free-for-all,” said Jeffrey Dunn, the lawyer who represented Riverside in the successful defense of its ban. “Cities and counties looked at this and said, `Wait a minute. We can’t expose the public to these kind of risks,’ and the court recognized that when it comes to public safety, we have independent authority.”
The crackdown at the local level has diminished the number of care centers throughout the state.
Cannabis activists are currently gearing up for a ballot initiative that legalizes cannabis recreational as Colorado and Washington State did last November. Larry Swerdlow, a nurse who co-founded the Inland Empire center said banning care centers would push patients back on the streets. Swerdlow believes activists must realize the struggle to legalize cannabis will fought for years to come.
“I kind of look at the gay community. I mean, they had lost all these elections on gay marriage, 40 states and this kind of stuff, but they didn’t give up,” Swerdlow said as medical marijuana activists gathered at the state Capitol to lobby lawmakers on the two proposed bills. “We’re not going to give up either.”
Cannabis activists have from San Diego to Los Angeles and San Francisco have vowed to vote out any politicians who attempt to ban care centers.