California Judges Say Cities Might Be Able to Ban Pot Clubs

California Supreme Court justices voiced doubts that the state’s medical marijuana law bars cities and counties from passing laws prohibiting pot dispensaries.

A Riverside, California, medical pot store sued the city to overturn its ordinance barring dispensaries on grounds that under the state’s Compassionate Use Act, patients are shielded from certain state criminal drug laws and cities can’t disallow pot stores, only regulate their operation or location.

Justice Goodwin Liu said during a hearing today in San Francisco that while the act shields patients from state sanctions, it doesn’t address actions against medical marijuana taken by local authorities.

“It’s a limited immunity from certain kinds of state actions, but it says nothing about local sanctions,” Liu said.

“If the Legislature wanted to prevent localities from banning the dispensaries, why didn’t they say so expressly?” Justice Marvin Baxter asked.

Riverside’s Inland Empire Patients’ Health and Wellness center is one of hundreds of pot stores in California created since voters approved the state’s Compassionate Use Act in 1996. The law legalized marijuana as a medical treatment for pain and ailments.

More than 170 California localities have imposed bans on cannabis stores, according to David Nick, Inland Empire’s attorney.

Lower courts have upheld the Riverside ban and the California Supreme Court agreed to consider the pot club’s appeal. A ruling will be issued within 90 days.

The case is Riverside v. Inland Empire Patients’ Health and Wellness Center, S198638, California Supreme Court (San Francisco).

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