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California High Court Weighs Cities' Rights to Ban Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

Feb 5, 2013

The California Supreme Court appears poised to leave intact the right of local governments to ban medical marijuana dispensaries.  Ben Adler has more on the court’s oral arguments today  in a case involving a dispensary and the city of Riverside.

Here’s the core question for the justices in this case: Do state laws that allow the use of medical marijuana trump the long-standing powers of local governments to make their own land use and zoning decisions?  Many justices appeared skeptical.  Here’s Justice Joyce Kennard pressing the attorney representing the dispensary:

 “The issue is whether the state law in question removes or restricts the city’s pre-existing police power, and I would like a response to the question I phrased to you.” 

Attorney David Nick pushed back:

 “This court has repeatedly issued rulings that have said, totally banning an activity which is lawful under state law is beyond the power of local governments.” 

But the justices did not show much sympathy for Nick’s argument.  The court’s ruling is due in 90 days.