Drug Law

Medical Marijuana Advocates to Local Officials: Comply with State Law

| by ASA

Medical Marijuana Advocates Demand Local Officials Comply with State Distribution Laws

Recent California appellate court decision rejected distribution bans based on federal preemption

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Americans for Safe Access, the country's leading medical marijuana patient advocacy group, issued letters today to more than 140 localities across California with bans on distribution, demanding that they come into compliance with state law. The letters were sent two weeks after California's Fourth District Court of Appeal issued a long-awaited decision rejecting the argument that local or state dispensary laws are preempted by federal law. The case of Qualified Patients Association v. City of Anaheim was sent back to Superior Court for further factual development and eventual trial.

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However, despite the pre-trial status of the Anaheim case, ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford argued in the letter that the appellate court "makes clear that regulation of dispensaries, rather than an outright ban, is consistent with State law and is not preempted by federal law." The ASA letter, which was sent to 134 cities and 9 counties with outright bans on medical marijuana dispensaries, asked local officials "to reconsider [their] ban on medical marijuana dispensaries in light of the recently published decision."

Authored by Judge Richard Aronson, the unanimous appellate court decision stated that, "Just as the federal government may not commandeer state officials for federal purposes, a city may not stand in for the federal government and rely on purported federal preemption to implement federal legislative policy that differs from corresponding, express state legislation concerning medical marijuana."

"It's long past time for local officials to implement California law and embrace the need for safe access to medical marijuana," said ASA Associate Director Don Morgan. "Patients should not have to be held hostage by hostile jurisdictions." While ASA will continue to challenge bans in court, volunteer patient advocates across the state are working with their local governments to help them adopt dispensary regulations. "We will continue to work with local officials to develop sensible and effective regulatory ordinances that take into account the needs of not just patients, but all members of the community," continued Morgan.

The Anaheim case, on which the ASA letter is largely based, was the result of a lawsuit filed shortly after the City of Anaheim voted to ban dispensaries in July of 2007. Qualified Patients Association was a local medical marijuana dispensary that had been in operation for 5 months prior to the ban. An appeal was filed in March of 2008 after the Orange County Superior Court ruled that Anaheim could prohibit dispensaries from operating within its city limits.

Although more than 140 cities and counties have established outright bans against the local distribution of medical marijuana -- a tactic that advocates call a violation of state law -- nearly four-dozen California localities, including some of the most populous cities like Los Angeles, Long Beach, Oakland, and San Francisco, have successfully implemented dispensary regulations. In fact, not only do such regulations facilitate the safe distribution of medical marijuana to thousands of patients, but studies conducted earlier this year also indicate that regulations decrease crime in areas around dispensaries, contrary to most law enforcement propaganda.