A Court of Appeal panel in Santa Ana voids Lake Forest’s zoning ban on clinics, but rules that they can only sell marijuana they grow, a regulation that would force most to close.
By Maura Dolan, Los Angeles Times
March 1, 2012, 7:48 p.m.
California cities may not ban medical marijuana dispensaries, but the operations may sell only weed that is grown on site, an appeals court ruled in an Orange County case.
The unanimous decision by a three-judge Court of Appeal panel in Santa Ana was the first in the state to prohibit cities from enacting zoning restrictions that effectively ban all marijuana dispensaries. The court was also the first to rule that dispensaries must grow the marijuana they sell, a requirement that would force most of them out of business.
The ruling, issued late Wednesday, struck down a zoning law in the city of Lake Forest that the judges said amounted to “a total bar contradicting state law.”
“A local government cannot ban as a nuisance exactly what the Legislature contemplated would occur at cooperative and collective medical marijuana cultivation sites,” Justice Richard M. Aronson wrote for the court. Aronson, appointed to the trial bench by former Gov. Pete Wilson and elevated by Gov. Gray Davis, was joined by a Republican appointee and a Democratic appointee.
The decision conflicted with other appellate court rulings on medical marijuana, and attorneys in the case said they expected the California Supreme Court would agree to hear an appeal.
David Welch, an attorney for a now-closed Lake Forest medical pot operation, said cities should heed this week’s ruling and “not implement bans simply because that is the easy route.” Municipal bans of medical marijuana have proliferated since voters decriminalized the weed for medical purposes in 1996. For every city that permits medical marijuana operations, nine others ban them, Welch said.
Jeffrey Dunn, a lawyer who represented Lake Forest, said the court’s requirement that dispensaries sell pot grown only on site would shut down most storefront operations.
“I don’t see how you can grow in a tiny, rented space enough pot for over 1,000 customers,” Dunn said.
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