California Appellate Court Continues Uncertainty for Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

The Fourth District California Court of Appeal yesterday unanimously voted to remand a case back to the trial court to consider whether cities can ban medical marijuana dispensaries within their city limits.   The Court of Appeal said the lower court hadn’t addressed if local laws could trump the state’s provisions.

The ruling failed to decide whether the City of Anaheim’s local ordinance could preempt the state’s Medical Marijuana Program Act (MMPA). The ruling states that because Proposition 215 and the MMPA “do not mandate conduct that federal law prohibits, nor pose an obstacle to federal enforcement of federal law, the enactments’ decriminalization provisions are not preempted by federal law.”

The long-awaited ruling did little to clear the legal confusion affecting marijuana clubs which have spread dramatically in many parts of California since Prop. 215 legalized marijuana use for medicinal purposes.

More than 120 cities and counties in California have barred pot clinics, compared to approximately 50 which have implemented ordinances regulating medical marijuana dispensaries. In addition, federal law still classifies marijuana as an illegal drug, although the Obama administration’s stated policy is not to pursue raids on state-certified marijuana facilities.

The Court acknowledged that there is continued uncertainty for local governments, local zoning laws, and medical marijuana users and dispensaries.

“As anxious as we, the parties, and amici curiae are to reach this important and interesting question of state preemption, this case in its present posture is not the occasion to do so,” the court wrote.

The case stems from a three-year-old lawsuit in which a patients’ group sued to challenge the City of Anaheim’s decision to prohibit all marijuana dispensaries, arguing that the city’s ordinance conflicts with state law and violates the civil rights of disabled people.

The full court ruling can be found here.

(Photo source: Flickr)

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