A state appeals court affirmed the legality of medical marijuana dispensaries under California law and rejected bans imposed by municipalities.
A three-justice panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal held Monday that Los Angeles County's ban on medical marijuana is "preempted" by state law. The decision reverses a preliminary junction granted to the county by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ann Jones in May 2011.
On July 24, the city of Los Angeles is similar to the one enacted by the County, but just rejected by the court of appeal.
"Los Angeles County's total, per se nuisance ban against medical marijuana dispensaries directly contradicts the legislature's intent," Justice Robert Mallano wrote in the 19-page unanimous decision.
Joe Elford, Chief Counsel with Americans for Safe Access, said the ruling put a "major wrennch" in City Attorney Carmen Trutanich's effort to ban medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles.
"The court of appeal could not have been clearer in expressing that medical marijuana dispensaries are legal under state law, and that municipalities have no right to ban them," said Joe Elford, Chief Counsel with Americans for Safe Access, a medical marijuana advocacy group. "This landmark decision should have a considerable impact on how the California Supreme Court rules in the various dispensary cases it's currently reviewing."
While the ruling will do doubt be welcomed by many in the medical marijuana community, it still does not make them safe from being raided and/or forcibly closed.
As the Associated Press put it Tuesday, referring to Monday's court ruling, which revolved around Alternative Medicinal Cannabis Collective, a medical marijuana facility in the City of Covina against which a lower court gave L.A. County an injunction in 2011—wrongfully, in the appeals court opinion:
However, the decision does not mean the coast is clear for the Covina dispensary. The Court of Appeal says even though L.A. County can't outlaw pot shops completely, local lawmakers still can limit where they locate require them to obtain operating permits and business licenses.
The federal government has raided a medical marijuana training college in Oakland and dispensaries across the state, an aggressive policy change that was announced with a simultaneous raid on a North Hollywood-area shop last October.
The LAPD also appears to have left policies regarding pot shops up to each division. Over the last three years, the Devonshire Division systematically shut down dozens of shops, a move that scared off many others to the point that it is believed there are no more pot shops in the entire division's patrol area.
However, the North Hollywood Division and many others have taken a hands-off approach to pot shops, leading to inconsistency in how the LAPD as a whole views pot shops. Read more: