[JURIST] The Supreme Court of California [official website] ruled [opinion, PDF] unanimously Monday that local governments may outlaw medical marijuana dispensaries, upholding a ban enacted by the city of Riverside in 2010. The court concluded that California’s medical marijuana statutes, the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 (CUA) [text] and Medical Marijuana Program (MMP) [official website] do not preempt a local ban on facilities that distribute medical marijuana. Riverside declared, by zoning ordinances, that medical marijuana dispensaries are a prohibited use of land within the city and may be abated as a public nuisance. The court uphold the ordinances:
We have consistently maintained that the CUA and the MMP are but incremental steps toward freer access to medical marijuana, and the scope of these statutes is limited and circumscribed. They merely declare that the conduct they describe cannot lead to arrest or conviction, or be abated as a nuisance, as violations of enumerated provisions of the Health and Safety code. Nothing in the CUA or the MMP expressly or impliedly limits the inherent authority of a local jurisdiction, by its own ordinances, to regulate the
use of its land, including the authority to provide that facilities for the distribution of medical marijuana will not be permitted to operate within its borders. We must therefore reject defendants’ preemption argument, and must affirm the judgment of the Court of Appeal.
The court also noted that the CUA and the MMP have no effect on the federal enforceability of the law in California.
The sale and use of marijuana [JURIST news archive] remains a controversial issue in the US and abroad. In February the Michigan Supreme Court [official website] ruled that the private sale of medical marijuana is illegal [JURIST report]. Additionally, the top court in Ontario upheld Canada’s general ban on marijuana [JURIST report]. In December an Arizona judge ruled that the state’s medical marijuana law is constitutional [JURIST report] and instructed the state to permit dispensaries to open. In November lawmakers in Uruguay proposed legislation for state-regulated marijuana [JURIST report]. Also that month Washington [Initiative 502, PDF] and Colorado [Amendment 64, PDF] legalized the drug [JURIST report] via state ballot initiatives. Similarly, medical marijuana was legalized in Massachusetts [Harvard Crimson report] for the first time, as over 60 percent of voters approved a similar referendum [Petition 11-11, PDF].