LOS ANGELES -- The Second District Court of Appeal in California issued a landmark decision yesterday in County of Los Angeles v. Alternative Medicinal Cannabis Collective (AMCC), which affirmed the legality of medical marijuana dispensaries under state law, and rejected bans imposed by municipalities.
In particular, the AMCC court held that Los Angeles County's "complete ban" on medical marijuana is "preempted" by state law and, therefore, void. The AMCC decision reverses a preliminary junction granted to the County by the Los Angeles Superior Court in May 2011.
On the issue of whether dispensaries are legal under state law, the AMCC court ruled that, "[T]he repeated use of the term 'dispensary' throughout [Health and Safety Code section 11362.768] and the reference in subdivision (e) to a 'storefront or mobile retail outlet' make it abundantly clear that the medical marijuana collectives authorized by section 11362.775 are permitted by state law to perform a dispensary function." The AMCC further held that, "[Los Angeles] County's total, per se nuisance ban against medical marijuana dispensaries directly contradicts the Legislature's intent," and called that contradiction "direct, patent, obvious, and palpable."
This landmark decision comes as a number of other state appellate court rulings impacting dispensaries have been granted review by the California Supreme Court, including Pack v. City of Long Beach, which addresses how localities can regulate distribution, and City of Riverside v. Inland Empire Patient's Health and Wellness, which deals with whether municipalities can permanently ban distribution. The California Supreme Court could also decide to review the AMCC ruling, which it will decide in the next several weeks.
"The court of appeal could not have been clearer in expressing that medical marijuana dispensaries are legal under state law, and that municipalities have no right to ban them," said Joe Elford, Chief Counsel with Americans for Safe Access, the country's leading medical marijuana advocacy group. "This landmark decision should have a considerable impact on how the California Supreme Court rules in the various dispensary cases it's currently reviewing."
On July 24th, the City of Los Angeles is scheduled to vote on a dispensary ban similar to the one enacted by the County, but just rejected by the court of appeal. "The AMCC decision puts a giant wrench into the plans of City Attorney Trutanich to persuade the City Council to enact a ban," continued Elford. The proposal introduced by Council member Huizar to ban dispensaries, which appeared to be favored by many of his colleagues, now faces an uncertain fate. Patient advocates have been pushing for a more sensible alternative being proposed by Council members Koretz and Wesson that would create “limited immunity” for a certain number of dispensaries in the city.
Landmark ruling in County of Los Angeles v. Alternative Medicinal Cannabis Collective: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/AMCC_Appellate_Court_Decision.pdf
Lower court ruling in County of Los Angeles v. Alternative Medicinal Cannabis Collective: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/AMCC_Superior_Court_Decision.pdf