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California Supreme Court Says Cities Can Ban Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

May 6, 2013

Medical marijuana advocates rally on a lawn near the Capitol after the California Supreme Court ruled cities and counties can ban dispensaries within their borders.
Credit Katie Orr / Capital Public Radio

California’s highest court has come down on the side of cities and counties in the fight over the location, or even the existence, of medical marijuana dispensaries. Katie Orr reports from Sacramento. 

The California Supreme Court has ruled cities and counties have the right under law to regulate the location of dispensaries within their borders. The ruling stems from a case involving Riverside. A local dispensary was told it was violating city zoning laws and had to shut down. The dispensary then challenged the city in court. The League of California Cities backed Riverside in the case. Executive Director Chris McKenzie says this is an issue of local control.

“Cities can decide whether they want none, whether they want a few, whether they want many. We are concerned if cities can’t decide that,” says McKenzie.

The court found state laws allowing access to medical marijuana don’t guarantee that access will be convenient. The ruling was disappointing to Don Duncan, the California Director of Americans for Safe Access. But he tried to stay positive.

“I think the silver lining from the Supreme Court decision is that they do refer to dispensaries as legal businesses, which I hope will be reassuring to people. And they also call on the state legislature to do something about this issue. So that’s a big step forward,” says Duncan.

There are two bills pending in the legislature that Duncan says would provide additional regulation, and legitimacy, to medical marijuana.