The California Supreme Court issued an order today 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 today’s 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 some 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 of Americans for Safe Access (ASA), the country’s leading medical marijuana advocacy group. “We’re very pleased that local governments will now be unable to use appellate court decisions to deny patients access to medical marijuana in their own communities.”
Arguing that Pack was erroneously decided, ASA along with the American Civil Liberties Union, the Drug Policy Alliance, and the County of Santa Cruz filed a brief on December 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 reason to suspend regulatory ordinances or completely ban local distribution. In its latest crackdown on medical marijuana in California, the U.S. Justice Department has 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 cities could lawfully ban it. However, now that both decisions are out of play, local governments will now have less cover with which 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,” continued 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 that establish the means by which California’s hundreds of thousands of patients can obtain a medicine that is legal under state law.
A third medical marijuana dispensary case, People v. G3 Holistic, was also granted review by the Supreme Court today.
Ruling in Pack v. City of Long Beach: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/Pack_v_Long_Beach.pdf
Ruling in City of Riverside v. Inland Empire Patient’s Health and Wellness Ctr.: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/Riverside_Decision.pdf
Amicus brief urging review by the California Supreme Court: http://AmericansForSafeAccess.org/downloads/Pack_Amicus_CSC_Review.pdf
Press Release From Americans For Safe Access