A lower court’s ruling upholding Riverside’s ban has been used as precedent for other cities to control medical marijuana

BY RICHARD K. De ATLEY
STAFF WRITER
rdeatley@pe.com

Published: 18 January 2012 03:51 PM

The California Supreme Court will review a city of Riverside medical marijuana case in which a lower court ruled that cities and counties have the right to ban dispensaries.

Local governments throughout the state have used that decision, issued in November by the Fourth District Court of Appeal, to shut down medical marijuana clinics within their boundaries.

That court ruled that nothing in the state’s1996 Compassionate Use Act (Prop. 215) or the state Legislature’s Medical Marijuana Program, which outlines usage, pre-empts cities from banning the facilities.

The Riverside ruling was one of four medical marijuana cases the State Supreme Court voted to accept Wednesday. In hearing the cases, the court will try to tackle federal and state issues regarding medical marijuana and the dispensaries that sell it, and also address more fundamental questions of local control.

The court voted 7-0 to hear the Riverside case.

The justices also will hear an unpublished ruling on Upland’s dispensary ban, which closely followed the language of the Riverside ruling; a Long Beach case that addresses the illegality of marijuana under federal law and whether that preempts local officials from regulating dispensaries; and a Dana Point case that looks into who has standing to challenge local ordinances regulating dispensaries.

“It was only a matter of time before the California Supreme Court would take on the issue, and the time is now,” said Jeffrey V. Dunn, an Irvine-based attorney with Best Best & Krieger who represents Riverside in the case. “Federal pre-emption, state law pre-emption and standing — in one day the Supreme Court has decided to review this law in a comprehensive fashion.”

Riverside City Attorney Greg Priamos said he believed the court recognized the importance of the cases and wants to clarify the law.

“We remain cautiously optimistic that the Supreme Court will uphold the city and county land use authority; that cities and boards of supervisors have the right to establish land-use policies, and the city’s right is not preempted by state law,” Priamos said.

J. David Nick, the attorney representing dispensary owners in Riverside, said a unanimous vote to hear a case is rare. He also noted that the court took the case even though there are no conflicting appellate decisions on the issue regarding the Riverside case.

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