The Supreme Court of California ruled this week that cities in the state can ban marijuana dispensaries.
The ruling comes 17 years after California became the first state to legalize the medical use of marijuana. The court decided that local governments are allowed to regulate land use and that exercising that sort of authority does not conflict with a resident’s right to possesses marijuana.
Although California residents are protected from arrest for possessing marijuana, Justice Marvin Baxter said that does not give them a “right of convenient access.” More than 200 local governments currently prohibit dispensaries within their borders. This ruling could cause more cities to enact similar bans.
According to Amanda Reiman of the Drug Policy Alliance, the current system "leaves a lot of patients without access.” She added, “We hope this (ruling) will be a sign to the state that it's time to pass medical marijuana regulation."
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Whether the state will attempt to establish an agency to enact statewide rules about marijuana remains to be seen. It’s also possible that many cities will simply choose not to deal with dispensaries altogether because of the legal headaches involved with them.
"Only cities as liberal as Los Angeles will attempt to regulate," said Los Angeles Special Assistant City Atty. Jane Usher. "Unless you are a city that enjoys being in the litigation business, I think bans will become the order of the day."
The ban case reached the state Supreme Court after a medical marijuana collective in Riverside, Calif., challenged the city's ban, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
The ruling is another major blow to medical marijuana supporters. In 2008, the state court ruled that employers have the right to fire workers who tested positive for marijuana that they had used for medical reasons outside the workplace.