California high court to review controversial cannabis cases

Posted on January 19th, 2012 by Global Ganja Report and tagged , , , , , .

The California Supreme Court issued an order Jan. 18 indicating its intent to review two controversial medical marijuana cases that have resulted in the suspension of several local dispensary ordinances across the state. As a result of the order, Pack v. City of Long Beach and City of Riverside v. Inland Empire Patient's Health and Wellness Ctr., Inc. have both been vacated in anticipation of the high court's ruling. The Pack decision held that dispensary regulations may be preempted by federal law, and the Riverside decision held that localities could legally ban distribution altogether.

"These cases were very problematic for patients and their ability to safely and legally access a medication that works for them," said Joe Elford, chief counsel with Americans for Safe Access (ASA). "We're very pleased that local governments will now be without the means to deny access to medical marijuana for patients in their communities, at least until or unless the Supreme Court has ruled otherwise."

Arguing that Pack was erroneously decided, ASA joined with the American Civil Liberties Union, the Drug Policy Alliance, and the County of Santa Cruz to file a brief on Dec. 12th 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 justification to suspend regulatory ordinances or completely ban local distribution. The US Justice Department even cited the Pack decision as a reason why localities should not adopt distribution licensing ordinances.

One of the cases that contradicted Pack was the Riverside ruling issued in November, which held that medical marijuana distribution was not preempted by federal law, but that cities could lawfully ban it. However, now that both decisions are out of force, local governments will have less cover to implement or continue such bans. "The Pack decision is a dead letter and can no longer be used to defy the implementation of state law," said Elford.

It will likely be at least a couple of years before the Supreme Court rules on the cases. In the meantime, advocates will be urging their local governments to adopt regulatory ordinances to allow California's hundreds of thousands of patients to obtain a medicine that is legal under state law. (ASA, Jan. 18)

Photo by the Mad Pothead 


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