After much anticipation, the California Supreme Court agreed this week to review how cities and counties regulate medical marijuana.
The High Court issued an order indicating its intent to review two controversial medical marijuana cases, Pack v. City of Long Beach and As a result of this week's decision, both cases have been vacated in anticipation of the High Court's ruling.
In reviewing the cases, the state Supreme Court will consider whether local governments can ban medical marijuana dispensaries given that the drug is legal under California voter-approved Proposition 215. The court will also review the continued conflict between state and federal law. Under federal law, marijuana is illegal.
The Pack decision held that some dispensary regulations may be preempted by federal law and the Riverside decision held that municipalities can legally ban dispensaries altogether.
The Supreme Court has not yet scheduled oral arguments, and it will likely be years before rulings are issued.
In a Jan. 19 statement from Joe Elford, Chief Counsel of the country's most vocal medical marijuana advocacy group, Americans for Safe Access, this week’s decision was lauded.
"These cases were very problematic for patients and their ability to safely and legally access a medication that works for them," Elford said. "We're very pleased that local governments will now be unable to use appellate court decisions to deny patients access to medical marijuana in their own communities."
Arguing that Pack was erroneously decided, ASA along with the American Civil Liberties Union, the Drug Policy Alliance, and the County of Santa Cruz filed a brief on December 12 requesting that the California Supreme Court review the case.
“Although the Pack decision, issued in October of last year contradicted other appellate court rulings, several cities and counties across California have used it as a reason to suspend regulatory ordinances or completely ban local distribution,” Elford said.
During the January 11 Wildomar City Council meeting, City Attorney Thomas Jex provided a presentation that highlighted both the Pack and Riverside cases. He said the appellate court decisions helped bolster local jurisdictions’ bans on the drug, including the Wildomar ban. Lake Elsinore and the County of Riverside also have bans in place.
In recent weeks, The shutdowns were bolstered by the Riverside decision,
A third medical marijuana dispensary case, People v. G3 Holistic, was also granted review by the Supreme Court this week.