Tuesday, October 16 , 2018, 9:37 pm | Fair 61º

 
 
 
 

California Supreme Court Ruling Could Affect Local Pot Dispensaries

Despite state laws and federal enforcement, the decision allows cities to regulate medical-marijuana storefronts with ordinances

The California Supreme Court has decided that cities can ban medical-marijuana dispensaries with zoning ordinances, despite state laws allowing access for qualified patients and their primary caregivers.

The decision, which could affect local communities, came in a lawsuit in which the City of Riverside sued the Inland Empire Patients Health and Wellness Center, and obtained a preliminary injunction after arguing that the dispensary was a public nuisance and being used for something that was illegal by federal law.

The state’s Compassionate Use Act of 1996 allowed for the collective cultivation, possession and use of marijuana by qualified patients without criminal consequences, and the Medical Marijuana Program in 2004 enhanced access.

The Compassionate Use Act and Medical Marijuana Program “remove state-level criminal and civil sanctions from specified medical marijuana activities, but they do not establish a comprehensive state system of legalized medical marijuana; or grant a right of convenient access to marijuana for medicinal use; or override the zoning, licensing, and police powers of local jurisdictions; or mandate local accommodation of medical marijuana cooperatives, collectives, or dispensaries,” Justice Marvin Baxter wrote in the decision.

Nothing in those two laws limits the authority of a local jurisdiction to regulate use of its land, by its own ordinances, he wrote.

The Inland Empire dispensary started operating in 2009, and was sued for an injunction shortly after, which was then upheld by an appeals court.

The Court of Appeal believed, and the Supreme Court agreed, that Riverside’s ordinance provisions “do not duplicate or contradict the state statutes concerning medical marijuana.”

Many jurisdictions already have enacted bans on these dispensaries — which sell medical marijuana to patients with a doctor’s recommendation.

At the time Santa Barbara County voted to ban them, Guadalupe, Solvang, Buellton, Goleta, Carpinteria and Lompoc had already done the same. 

Santa Barbara, Santa Maria and Ventura, however, created ordinances to allow and regulate the storefront dispensaries. There have been numerous legal arguments over the definition of a dispensary versus a collective.

Most local dispensaries bought marijuana from growers and then sold it to their members, who were qualified patients.

Santa Barbara’s permitting process required members to live within the county and have a valid doctor’s recommendation; cultivation had to be within the tri-counties; and establishments could not turn a profit.

An earlier ordinance was broad and considered flawed, so the City Council worked on a stricter law — adopted in 2010 — that capped the number of dispensaries and mapped out areas where the storefronts could be.

Four storefront dispensaries had city permits, which mandated that they abide by California medical-marijuana laws in addition to ordinance rules.

“The California Supreme Court ruling is a good one that supports local control over statewide mandates over municipal zoning rules,” Mayor Helene Schneider said. “Any changes to the city’s current ordinance would require five votes, and I don’t know of any plans to change the current regulations.”

Despite the permitting process, they all closed within a few months of the Drug Enforcement Administration conducting raids last May and the U.S. Attorney’s Office delivering asset-forfeiture warning letters to all dispensary building property owners in the county. 

The federal government considers all marijuana possession, cultivation, sales and use illegal, and the Drug Enforcement Agency raided the permitted Pacific Coast Collective on Milpas Street on May 2, 2012, which was the third time since 2008.

Agents also raided the Miramar Collective in Summerland and a marijuana farm in a two-story building on East Haley Street.

Every storefront dispensary in the city closed down after that, and no applications have been filed for permits ever since, according to the city Planning Department, which handles the permits.

Noozhawk staff writer Giana Magnoli can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Email
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership
×

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.