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California Court Rules Cities Can Unjustly Ban Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

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Marijuana Dispensary Jarby Phillip Smith

In a decision that is already having an impact on medical marijuana access, a California appeals court ruled Wednesday that cities and counties can lawfully ban medical marijuana dispensaries. In the days since the ruling was announced, a number of localities have already either moved to enact bans or halted plans to regulate dispensaries.

California laws “do not provide individuals with inalienable rights to establish, operate or use” dispensaries, nor do they say that dispensaries “shall be permitted within every city and county,” wrote Justice Carol Codrington for a unanimous court in City of Riverside v. Inland Empire Patients Health and Wellness Center.

California law expressly allows localities to regulate dispensaries and restrict their locations, Codrington wrote, adding that a total ban is “simply a means of regulation or restriction.”

The issue is one that has been roiling the waters for years, but the decision by the 4th District Court of Appeals in Riverside is clear and unambiguous. Combined with an appeals court ruling last month that the city of Long Beach could not adopt regulations allowing dispensaries because marijuana remains illegal under federal law, the ruling paves the way for a reinvigorated crackdown on dispensaries by local governments across the state.

Access to medical marijuana is already problematic in large areas of the state. According to Americans for Safe Access, 168 cities and 17 counties have banned dispensaries and another 80 cities and 10 counties have enacted moratoriums. On the other side of the coin, only about 40 cities and 10 counties have enacted ordinances to allow dispensaries.

Localities were already getting nervous in the wake of the Long Beach decision last month, and the number of locales enacting bans is likely to grow quickly after the ruling. Santa Cruz County is likely to impose a moratorium on Tuesday, while the city of South Lake Tahoe is looking to repeal its recently enacted dispensary ordinance. The city of Long Beach is now considering a ban, and other cities that have been facing court challenges on similar issues, like Rancho Mirage, are now more confident their bans will be upheld.

While the city of Riverside now plans to move ahead with shutting down all 15 dispensaries in its jurisdiction, Inland Empire founder Lanny Swerdlow told the Los Angeles Times he expects the collective will appeal to the state Supreme Court.

“We think that it’s wrong that a city can ban a state-permitted activity by zoning it out of existence,” he said. “By allowing cities to ban, it just makes a crazy-quilt pattern across the state.”

This week’s and last month’s appeals courts decisions are yet another blow to a medical marijuana industry beset by a renewed federal offensive against distribution and cultivation. Federal prosecutors across the state last month moved to shut down a number of dispensaries, have threatened landlords with asset forfeiture and possible prosecution, and have even warned elected officials they were not immune to possible federal action.

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  • I Am The Beast; I am a witness against Riverside County Court Judges like Walker who are criminals and should be executed any way the people can deal justice. I was arrested and tried, held without bond for 13 months, The charges are all bogus and crap anjd makes me hate the whole government and people who allow it, I cry to my God to have him curse all the areas economy and lives of people, I will not cease and God is not bound under any man or beast, he does not take bribes.
    I was charged with cultivation and convicted, I had 5 plants all under 8″ tall immature. I had recommendation by a P.A. I knew from my honorable naval service days and my doctor who also was a Naval Officer before civilian life. I asked that the charges be dropped since I take Medical Marijuana for my diabetes related health and its calming abilities on my mental health.
    i complained in trial because these witnesses were not summoned after I had asked them be brought to the Judge to witness for me. I had terrorist charges against me as well, Campus Police said I threatened them on arrest at my home in Hemet, but oh, the Hemet Cop who escorted them said bull on that and they lost their case. I had another case of threat they said I posted on the web and sent them, I posted a statement that I have not and refuse to recant from. I did not sent it to them as all records showed. Yet this was a mistrial so the DA was ready to hold me post 13 months for another trial. They convicted on a 4thy charge I used my PC to convey a harassing or obscene transmission but this conviction was overturned by the state court that said I had not made any harassing or obscene transmission on my PC, all the same I plea bargained to the mistried charge as it was reduced to a misdemeanor and was put on probation 5 years. Funny how it all started in the end off 2007 and all the nation has been heading down since then, I curse by my God their accursed persons.
    If I did not make any harassing or obscene transmission on my PC then how did I make a threat on it to the school? If I have had a doctor and other health care recommend I smoke marijuana why am I convicted of growing 5 immature plants?
    I pray God make an earthquake and damn these people in all the states, world and universe.
    I detest them and hate them with causes and I present these causes day and night to my God begging him for the justice I so hunger and thirst for. I would that God reward these evil wicked people with their own ways and am glad to see him do so, the chief of police at MSJC who raided me Oct 5 2007 was charged and convicted of federal corruption crimes and sentenced to prison. I pray God smite him and cause his son to end his life and then his own, take these evil people away from my sight I pray. All these people and their kinds are cursed by my prayers for the reason I have cause against the entire nation and world and God is great who avenges me daily!
    Moreover, I laugh at these evil courts and cops for God will reward them evil for evil and bring 7 fold more evil on their heads everywhere! They will have nothing soon enough, no money for gas, no money for bread, they will be made desolate, AMEN.

  • guy christopher

    oh, so its ok though, for the state of california, to tax it; and then use the millions of dollors, to help balance their budget? Sounds like a bunch of hypocrites to me. Why dont they just legalize it for all purposes; to use;smoke, sell, buy, grow, transport…..they are not; repeat NOT, going to ever get rid of medical marijuana. Too many people want it; more i think, then dont. Come on States; get on the bandwagon; and legalize this very desireable medical wonder. It is known to cure cancer; as well as assist many with their dailey pain, without the use of the pills the pharmacetical companies would rather you take. They cant make any money on marijuana…poor things.

  • If you read the ruling the appeals court makes clear that Riverside’s ordinance stands only in the absence of pre-emptive state regulation. Which is pretty damn ironic, since local governments have been hollering for state and/or federal regulation for years. Instead, the task of dispensary oversight has been dumped on them, and in most places in California it’s been ban first, ask questions later.

  • Theophile

    On a separation of church and state note:
    The 1st page & chapter of the Bible Genesis 1:29….And God said, “Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth”….
    Now Who other than Satan, or his henchmen would want to…
    # claim(devils weed) ownership of…..
    # restrict access to…
    # Tax/ regulate…
    # or otherwise make criminal….
    God’s first gift to us?
    For a historical account of how the truth in the Bible has been systematically suppressed, by those “regulators”, read Foxes book of Martyrs: http://www.gutenberg.org/files/22400/22400-h/22400-h.htm

  • ConservativeChristian

    Jesus said to do unto others as we would have them to do unto us. None of us would want our child or grandchild thrown in jail with the sexual predators over marijuana. None of us would want to see an older family member’s home confiscated and sold by the police for growing a couple of marijuana plants for their aches and pains. It’s time to stop putting our own family members in jail over marijuana.
    If ordinary Americans could grow a little marijuana in their own back yards, it would be about as valuable as home-grown tomatoes. Let’s put the criminals out of business and get them out of our neighborhoods. It’s time to let ordinary Americans grow a little marijuana in their own back yards.

    We can email our Congressperson and Senators at http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml to discuss HR 2306, the proposed Federal law that will get the Federal government out of the marijuana business and let states make their own laws.
    And a big THANK YOU to the courageous, freedom loving legislators, governors, and countless others who are working so hard to bring this through! You’re doing a great patriotic service for all of America!

  • malcolm kyle

    An appeal to all Prohibitionists:

    Colombia, Peru, Mexico or Afghanistan with their coca leaves, marijuana buds or poppy sap are not igniting temptation in the minds of our weak, innocent citizens. These countries are duly responding to the enormous demand that comes from within our own borders. Invading or destroying these countries, thus creating more hate, violence, instability, injustice and corruption, will not fix our problem. We need to collectively admit that we are sick. — Prohibition is neither a sane nor a safe approach; left unabated, its puritanical flames will surely engulf every last one of us.

    Most of us are aware by now that individuals who use illegal drugs are going to get high, ‘no matter what.’ So why do you not prefer they acquire them in stores that check IDs and pay taxes? Gifting the market in narcotics to ruthless criminals, foreign terrorists and corrupt law enforcement officials is seriously compromising our future. If you remotely believe that people will one day quit using any of these ‘at present’ illegal drugs, then you are exhibiting a degree of naivety parallel only with those poor wretches who voluntarily drank the poisoned Kool-Aid in Jonestown.

    Even if you cannot stand the thought of people using drugs, there is absolutely nothing you, or any government, can do to stop them. We have spent 40 years and over a trillion dollars on this dangerous farce. Practically everybody is now aware that Prohibition will not suddenly and miraculously start showing different results. So why do you wish to continue with it? Do you actually think you may have something to lose If we were to start basing drug policy on science & logic instead of ignorance, hate and lies?

    Maybe you’re a police officer, a prison guard or a local politician. Possibly you’re scared of losing employment, overtime-pay, the many kick-backs and those regular fat bribes. But what good will any of that do you once our society has followed Mexico over the dystopian abyss of dismembered bodies, vats of acid and marauding thugs carrying gold-plated AK-47s with leopard-skinned gunstocks?

    Kindly allow us to forgo the next level of your sycophantic prohibition-engendered mayhem!

    Prohibition Prevents Regulation : Legalize, Regulate and Tax!