California Supreme Court To Review Medical Marijuana Cases

In reviewing the cases, the state Supreme Court will consider whether local governments can ban medical marijuana dispensaries.

After much anticipation, the California Supreme Court agreed this week to review how cities and counties regulate medical marijuana.

The High Court issued an order indicating its intent to review two controversial medical marijuana cases, Pack v. City of Long Beach and As a result of this week's decision, both cases have been vacated in anticipation of the High Court's ruling.

In reviewing the cases, the state Supreme Court will consider whether local governments can ban medical marijuana dispensaries given that the drug is legal under California voter-approved Proposition 215. The court will also review the continued conflict between state and federal law. Under federal law, marijuana is illegal.

The Pack decision held that some dispensary regulations may be preempted by federal law and the Riverside decision held that municipalities can legally ban dispensaries altogether.

The Supreme Court has not yet scheduled oral arguments, and it will likely be years before rulings are issued.

In a Jan. 19 statement from Joe Elford, Chief Counsel of the country's most vocal medical marijuana advocacy group, Americans for Safe Access, this week’s decision was lauded.

"These cases were very problematic for patients and their ability to safely and legally access a medication that works for them," Elford said. "We're very pleased that local governments will now be unable to use appellate court decisions to deny patients access to medical marijuana in their own communities."

Arguing that Pack was erroneously decided, ASA along with the American Civil Liberties Union, the Drug Policy Alliance, and the County of Santa Cruz filed a brief on December 12 requesting that the California Supreme Court review the case.

“Although the Pack decision, issued in October of last year contradicted other appellate court rulings, several cities and counties across California have used it as a reason to suspend regulatory ordinances or completely ban local distribution,” Elford said.

The Supreme Court's decision to vacate Pack v. City of Long Beach could have a major impact on CD 14 Councilmember José Huizar's effort to ban dispensaries in Los Angeles. 

Huizar--bolstered by some law enforcement officials and community leaders who have argued that Northeast L.A.'s dispensaries have negatively impacted residents' quality of life--had argued that Pack's findings invalidated the city's medical marijuana ordinance.

The ruling in Pack declared that states are only allowed to decriminalize marijuana, not regulate it.

Huizar's motion would indefinitely shutter Los Angeles' approximately 300 medical marijuana dispensaries, while still allowing authorized patients to grow their own marijuana, or have a certified caregiver do so for them.

Superior Court Judge Anthony Mohr ruled on October 14 that L.A.’s marijuana ordinance is valid and that its enforcement cannot be challenged by as many as 29 dispensaries that had sued the City over the issue. But Mohr also advised the City to revisit the ordinance to determine whether it can withstand a preemptory challenge in light of the Pack ruling and the fact that the L.A. ordinance has a provision for a lottery for dispensaries and other regulatory mechanisms.

“Given that we were advised by our City Attorney that we currently have an unenforceable ordinance, we are in a place where we were before we had an ordinance [when] we had a proliferation of dispensaries throughout the city, and with that proliferation came an impact on the quality of life in local communities,” Huizar said when

Huizar's motion was recently by the City Council's Public Safety Committee.

Patch has contacted Huizar's office and is awaiting comment on how the Supreme Court decision will affect his effort to ban dispensaries in Los Angeles.

lamedicalmarijuana January 20, 2012 at 09:02 PM
Why isn't patch reporting on how huizar is taking drug money from south American cartels. The real reason why this ban is happening is because south American drug cartels do NOT want Americans producing and distributinng medical marijuana! Looks like the Mexican mafia has made it clear! There will be no distribution of medical marijuana through storefronts so long as huizar is free to take bribes and undermine progress and democracy!!
Nimby pimp January 20, 2012 at 09:14 PM
Patch is otherwise occupied researching a major investigation on evidence it has discovered that supports the coming apocalypse predicted by the Mayan Calendar. Stay tuned!
Conservative Christian January 21, 2012 at 02:29 AM
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. 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. Let the marijuana users grow a little marijuana in their own back yards and put the criminals out of business.
clvngodess January 21, 2012 at 02:14 PM
Ah, how soon you forget CC, that Monsanto doesn't want you growing tomatoes. And the moment it's allowed, it will do something about us growing our own pot too. Let us not forget, criminals come in a wide variety of packages, including suits and ties.
Linda and Bennie Padilla January 21, 2012 at 04:27 PM
No, legalize and tax it and do not fill our prisons with low level users. It's ridiculous! It destroys lives.
raff January 21, 2012 at 07:19 PM
its disturbing how our great government cracks down on Med pot, but its ok for big pharma to distribute ritalin & oxycontin & a bunch of other REAL DANGEROUS drugs that will kill you in an overdose???? the only thing giving mexican brick weed ((extremely low quality product & contaminated)) any value is the prohibition laws against it!!!((whos benefiting from this again????)) if government people are not wise to this then what is going on in their heads??? good cannabis culture peoples lives are being destroyed in America, while mexican cartels dig tunnels & flood the market with low quality marijuana & make billions,ALL thanks to prohibition laws against it...if it was legally regulated mexican brick weed would become worthless, shifting profits from the pockets of mexican cartels to the American people,,,but i think the real problem is that our Awsome American government views cannabis culture peoples as second hand citizens so they act accordingly!=o(
Michael Larsen January 21, 2012 at 07:45 PM
Currently in California, possession of up to an ounce of marijuana is considered an infraction with a $100 fine and nothing on your record. And that's if you don't have an MMJ reccommend in which case you may possess as much as you please. Low level users are NOT filling our prisons.
Rob Schraff January 21, 2012 at 08:10 PM
If you search the LA Times for "Huizar" today, more of Michael Larsen's substance-free allegations pop up. (Really, doesn't Huizar have an official spokesperson?) Funny stuff, and I can hardly wait to hear Larsen opine on the legalities of the recent California Supreme Court ruling. Here it is: Re "Stuck with pot dispensaries," Editorial, Jan. 4 The Times writes: "It would be unjust to treat dispensaries that followed city laws the same as pirate operations." The editorial board has no ability to distinguish between legitimate and pirate pot shops, only assumptions. If all of L.A. dispensaries had followed the spirit or the letter of the law, we would not be having this discussion. But instead of engaging in collective cultivation for seriously ill patients, storefront pot shops slapped up "medical-wink-wink" welcome signs, ignored their obligation to obtain land use permits and sold marijuana procured from suppliers that they refuse to identify. Jose Hussar is the only City Council member willing to address this municipal joke. As a resident of Eagle Rock, I want no part of a city that honors ruse, chicanery and drug trafficking over lawful regulations that create safe neighborhoods. Michael Larsen Eagle Rock The LA Times editorial pointing out the negative implication of Huizar's motion - before the recent ruling (!)- is here: http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/opinionla/la-ed-marijuana-20120104,0,2171968.story
joyce hong January 21, 2012 at 08:36 PM
@Michael Larsen: where do you get your information from? Do you make this stuff up? There were 61,388 Misdemeanor marijuana possession arrests (2008) While there were 17,126 Felony sale/manufacture of marijuana arrests (2008) So it appears that once again you have no real information to support your lies and misinformation. source: http://www.cjcj.org/files/Marijuana_Arrests_and_Californias_Drug_War.pdf
Michael Larsen January 21, 2012 at 09:29 PM
Joyce Hong, as a professional marijuana advocate, I'm surprised you are not up on the latest facts. But I realize that it can be confusing. You quote statistics from 2008, 4 years ago. On January 1, 2011 a new law, SB1449, went into effect downgrading possession of up to an ounce to an infraction http://stopthedrugwar.org/chronicle/2010/oct/01/california_governor_signs_mariju. As was the case back in 2008, "possession of marijuana involves one ounce or less and carries a maximum punishment of a $100 fine", to quote the source you just provided. The difference is that it is no longer considered a misdemeanor (only an infraction like a traffic ticket) and it never shows up on the offender's record.
Pat January 21, 2012 at 11:02 PM
Do you ever get the feeling that you are constantly being lied to? "Pot is dangerous." (Wrong!) "Prescription meds are safe." (Wrong!) It always seems to come down to money and power to get more money and power. The interest has never been about public safety! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RlA8rwpC-TY
Aaron Foster January 22, 2012 at 12:13 AM
Actually a reply to Michael. First, the law regarding 1 oz of marijuana was only changed late 2011. Secondly, that is only in California. If you do any research on prison populations, you will indeed find that many are there for marijuana infractions. I agree with Linda and Bennie. Legalize it, tax the heck out of it, weed the criminals out of the system. Doing that provides an almost literal cash crop for Americans. It will create legal jobs. It will create tax income. It will push criminals out of the business. It is so very much less than dangerous that most prescription drugs and certain very much less dangerous than alcohol. You should ask yourself WHY...and really think about it...WHY should it be illegal? As I noted, if you compare it to legal medical or fun drugs the side effects and potential problems are minor in comparison. Historically pot was made illegal to fight "less desirable people" and the counter culture. We've been told over and over again that pot is bad bad bad. I've heard that all of my life, and when I stopped to examine WHY, I came up empty.
Aaron Foster January 22, 2012 at 01:10 AM
It is very interesting how many assertions are made and how few facts are shown in the argument against legalizing marijuana. Those arguing for legalized marijuana time after time site specific facts from legitimate sources while those for prohibition seem to rely on assertion and an almost hypnotized response of "Pot is bad! Period." I always feel thought those who support the prohibition of marijuana should also be leading a campaign to start up alcohol prohibition again! Otherwise they are just being hypocritical.
STARCHY January 22, 2012 at 07:38 PM
"As a resident of Eagle Rock, I want no part of a city that honors ruse, chicanery and drug trafficking over lawful regulations that create safe neighborhoods." Michael Larsen Eagle Rock well then hit the bricks Mike! and leave the rest of us alone. who asked you? whats your dog in this fight? the fact that pot is considered a class 2 narcotic (along with heroin and cocaine) is a joke. a pathetic joke. unless and until the feds correct this ridiculous, obsolete and LUDICROUS designation the peaceful, harmless pot smokers of the world will ignore their proclamations- and rightfully so.
Michael Larsen January 22, 2012 at 08:09 PM
Thanks for pointing out an important point here Starchy. Your (and most pro-pot advocate's) beef is with the federal issue of pot being on schedule one. That's the legalization argument. That's fine. Knock yourselves out getting Obama to change that. Good luck. My "dog" is that I don't want a bunch of pot shops in my neighborhood. It's really that simple. And I'm going to keep at it until they're gone.
STARCHY February 03, 2012 at 06:44 PM
No Michael, my beef is with Joey Weezer, for trying to move "us" in the wrong direction on MM and on the "bigger issue". RE: you "not wanting a bunch of pot shops in your neighborhood" (how many constitutes a "bunch"? how many DO you want?) is a personal bias against a type of business, hardly worthy of legislation barring them completely. Personally I'd like a ban on nail salons, payday money stores, massage parlors, car repair and churches. So why shouldn't my personal opinion be considered a valid reason for draconian legislation? Instead of throwing the proverbial baby out with the bathwater, maybe Joey Weezer should charge Officer Orange and his crew with enforcing the laws that are allegedly being broken - be they littering, loitering or thieving. why blame the dispensaries for the actions of their client/ customers? if THATS going to be your standard then why not hold TOMMY's and IN-N-OUT responsible for all the litter in our streets?


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