Sandra Emerson and Wes Woods II, Staff Writers
Posted: 05/10/2013 08:20:40 PM PDT
Updated: 05/10/2013 11:03:36 PM PDT

The state Supreme Court’s decision upholding local governments’ right to ban medical marijuana dispensaries left pro-marijuana advocates to rely on legislative action to ensure patients access to marijuana.

Although the court recognized the legality of medicinal marijuana use, they did uphold the constitutional rights of the nearly 200 cities and counties throughout the state to ban dispensaries.

“I think the take-home from the court’s decision wasn’t a big surprise, it just really underscored the need of the state to step up and provide comprehensive regulations which is in everybody’s interest,” said Tamar Todd, senior staff attorney with Drug Policy Alliance’s legal affairs office in Berkeley. “The patients need access. Law enforcement needs clarity, and localities need help in regulating. ”

The decision written by Justice Marvin R. Baxter, concluded by saying, “Of course nothing prevents future efforts by the Legislature, or by the people, to adopt a different approach. In the meantime however, we must conclude that Riverside’s ordinances are not preempted by state law. ”

The decision was made in the case involving the city of Riverside and medical marijuana dispensary Inland Empire Patients Health and Wellness Center, which questioned the city’s ordinance banning dispensaries. Although the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 decriminalizes the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, it did not set up a legal system for distributing medical marijuana.

The Medical Marijuana Program, approved by the state Legislature in 2004, established a medical marijuana identification card program, but does not require municipalities to allow dispensaries for patient access.

Lanny Swerdlow, founder of Inland Empire Patients Health and Wellness Center, which has closed, is now working with the Brownie Mary Democratic Club of Riverside – the first political party affiliated cannabis club in the state, according to the club’s website.

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