CA Supreme Court Decision Allows Localities to Implement Regulatory Programs for Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

Press Release August 22, 2012
Media Contact

Tamar Todd 510-229-5213 or Amanda Reiman 510-730-2811</p>

Yesterday, the California Supreme Court dismissed the case of Pack v. City of Long Beach.  The Pack case addresses the issue of whether local regulations governing medical marijuana production and distribution are preempted by the federal law Controlled Substances Act.  The Supreme Court decision to dismiss this case means that localities can move forward enacting and implementing regulatory programs as they have been for many years.

The Court found that since Long Beach had since repealed the ordinance that was the focus of the lower court’s decision that the legal validity of the ordinance was moot and dismissed the case.

The original decision in the Pack case came from an appellate court in October of last year, which held that some medical marijuana dispensary regulations may be preempted by federal law. The case was appealed and a decision was made last January to vacate the lower court’s decision and review the ruling.   The lower court’s decision in Pack concerned many localities in California that have enacted or wish to enact programs to regulate medical marijuana within their communities, some of which used it as a justification to ban dispensaries all together.

“The recent crackdown by the U.S. Attorneys in California has left medical marijuana businesses looking to state and local officials to carve a path of regulation in order to preserve safe access to medical marijuana in California. This decision allows them to move forward,” said Tamar Todd, senior staff attorney for the Drug Policy Alliance. “There is now no legal impediment for state and local government in California to move forward with responsible regulation for medical marijuana cultivation and distribution to patients. The question now is whether it is regulated or whether it operates on the margins.”

The Supreme Court is still poised to decide Riverside v. Inland Empire Patient’s Health and Wellness Center.  The Riverside case addresses the issue of whether localities have a right under state law to ban all dispensaries. 

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