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Appeals court declines to rule on whether California medical marijuana laws bar cities from outlawing dispensaries

A state appeals court declined Wednesday to decide whether California’s medical marijuana laws prevent cities and counties from outlawing dispensaries, sending a closely watched dispute over Anaheim’s 3-year-old ban back to the lower court for more hearings.

Cities and dispensaries had been anxiously anticipating a major decision because the 4th District Court of Appeal in Santa Ana had asked both sides for additional information and took an unusually long time to reach a decision, a year rather than the typical three months.

“Having taken as long as they did to decide the case, I was hoping we’d get a more definitive result,” said Joe Elford, chief counsel for Americans for Safe Access, an advocacy group. “The good news about the case is that the court does reinstate the lawsuit.”

Qualified Patients Assn., a dispensary run by Lance Mowdy, sued Anaheim in 2007 to overturn the city’s ordinance making it a misdemeanor to operate a dispensary in the city.

In its decision, the appeals court did reject Anaheim’s contention that the federal Controlled Substances Act preempted the state’s medical marijuana laws, making dispensaries illegal. Orange County Superior Court Judge David R. Chaffee had agreed with the city on that issue. Several previous court decisions have reached the same conclusion.

“As much as we want to put that argument out of its misery, we just can’t shake it,” Elford said.

In their decision, the three appellate judges said the issue of whether the state’s 1996 medical marijuana initiative and a 2003 state law preempt local bans “is by no means clear-cut or easily resolved on first impressions.” They acknowledge they were “anxious” to decide “this important and interesting question of state preemption,” but concluded that they had “precious few facts.”

Far more cities and counties prohibit dispensaries than allow them. According to Americans for Safe Access, 133 cities have banned dispensaries and 99 have moratoriums, while nine counties have banned them and 15 have moratoriums. Only 38 cities and nine counties allow dispensaries. Many cities also say their zoning ordinances prohibit dispensaries.

Los Angeles and Long Beach, the largest cities in L.A. County, allow dispensaries, but many others have acted to keep dispensaries out, including Glendale and Santa Clarita, the next-largest cities. Los Angeles County last month took the first step toward adopting a ban.

--- John Hoeffel 

Comments () | Archives (16)

the dispenseries are a joke,,anyone can get a medical approval.. i saw one person get a certificate for saying that his accordian playing kept him up at night...also,,no paper work is involved and cash only making it obvious the dispenseries arent keeping records or even paying taxes on what is obviously a business...in truth,, its like having the drug dealers dealing legally now and not paying taxes or keeping records

This is BS!!! Chicken S@#t Republican games.

They know were right and prop 215 is legal, we know sales are legal but the chicken S@#t Republican Christians have decided to NOT RULE AND IGNORE THE LAW!!!


If everyone who supports legalization of marijuana would send %10 to the Yes On 19 campaign, we will have cheap pot, a billion and a half or more in state revenue, a drop in the crime rate and we will put that part of organized crime that is involved in marijuana trafficing out of business.

Wish the court would had ruled in favor of the dispensaries; however, I'm glad the case is still alive. Why would a city ban medical cannabis dispensaries and not liquor stores?

Marijuana is far less dangerous than alcohol or tobacco. Around 50,000 people die each year from alcohol poisoning. Similarly, more than 400,000 deaths each year are attributed to tobacco smoking. By comparison, marijuana is nontoxic and cannot cause death by overdose. According to the prestigious European medical journal, The Lancet, "The smoking of cannabis, even long-term, is not harmful to health. ... It would be reasonable to judge cannabis as less of a threat ... than alcohol or tobacco."

Once again, I find, I am... Less Than Impressed...
Our finest judicial minds took a year to discover...
that they were lacking needed input...
Listen closely all u so called "judges"....




Someone better get a grip...'Cause when prop 19 passes...
then this whole thing starts over ...


good luck ..ur gonna need it ! ! ! !

The cities and counties that ban dispensaries have turned out to be a lot smarter than the ones that didn't. I voted for Prop 215 so that people with cancer and AIDS could get pain relief - not so that drug dealers could take over storefronts and cause problems for everyone around them. Most of these pot dispensaries are purely profit-making operations - and they don't care about anyone or anything else. I should know, we have two pot stores right near our house (and one block away from our elementary school). So, keep fighting, Anaheim. You don't want the same problems, crime, armed robberies, and murders that Los Angeles has experienced with these "medical providers."

Mark Shapiro: Why do you make such absurdly untrue statements? No licensed physician will issue a medical marijuana certificate because of accordion-playing and thus put their professional license at risk. Medical marijuana certificates require the physician's verification by signature (on paper) of a medical condition which may be ameliorated by medical marijuana. Pharmaceuticals, foodstuffs, and medical marijuana do not presently generate tax revenue in California. However, marijuana will be taxed after the passage of Proposition 19 this coming November. All the dispensaries accept credit cards and checks. Any business that fails to keep records dooms itself to failure; such a business could never be sold, for example. If you, for some irrational reason--meaning you do not personally profit from the continued criminality of marijuana--want to argue against legal marijuana, you will need a much more sophisticated argument.

"no paper work is involved and cash only making it obvious the dispenseries arent keeping records or even paying taxes" - mark shapiro

"You don't want the same problems, crime, armed robberies, and murders that Los Angeles has experienced with these "medical providers." -Pmac

SPIN ALERT - Neither of these comments above are factual.

1. To receive a medical cannabis card in Los Angeles, you must be prescribed one by a licensed physician. All legitimate caregivers require this prescription before allowing entry as well as requiring their own application and record of membership. They are not cash only.

2. All legitimate dispensaries in Los Angeles are extensively regulated by the city. They are not allowed near schools or residential areas, are very discreet that often few know they are even present, are heavily self-monitored for any suspicious activity, and always have security measures and personnel maintaining public safety.

3. Stop the hating and the lying.

reefer madness

" dispensary's are a joke" "anyone can get medical approval"

why shouldnt they ? its a friggin plant you numskull

federal marijuana laws are proof that big government and corporate fascist's have no respect for the bill of rights. like i tell people the german fascist's lost ww2 the american fascist's won ww2. the politicians the police and organized crime all agree pot should be illegal, and vigorously enforced.

Oh for heavens sake! Legalize it and give it the same age restriction rules to purchase it as alcohol.

Right now you can pick it up anywhere and very young people can get their hands on it in the 'black market'.

Better it be from open legit sources that will pay taxes on it and follow the law, than from drug cartels.

California's law and the "dispensaries" it allows are nothing more than legal drug dealing. You don't even have to see a physican...a medical doctor, to get a real prescription. Crime has increased surrounding the vast majority of dispensaries. We urgently need legislative change in the law. We need it to only allow a physician to prescribe marijuana and only at a pharmacy. That way, abuse will stop. Apparently, there are in fact those who have a legitimate need, and it is great that they can fulfill that need. However, abuse is so wide-spread that valid need is being outweighed by the entire legalized marijuana controversy. Let's get our legislators on track and get this fixed. It will be a win-win for those in need and for all of us who have to put up with the increased crime surrounding dispensaries. If you don't believe me about increased crime, check with your local police department...facts don't lie!

We have been fighting this plant since the early nineteenth century, and it's still here. Trillions of dollars spent over the last century or so, millions incarcerated, over a plant. A plant, mind you, that has comparable effects to alcohol, no risk of dependency nor risk of overdose. Gimme a break. Apparently sensible legislation is a foreign concept to some people.

I agree that the current piece of legislation in Los Angeles is a joke, but more than that it completely undermines the U.S. constitution and the citizens of Los Angeles. I believe it is every citizens god given right to be able to consume what ever he or she chooses, but i also believe it should be one hundred percent up to the people. There should be no contesting any individual community that decides they want to take part in this industry, and just the same there should be no contesting any community that decides they don't want any part. But what we are currently seeing are decisions being made based on a select few peoples unobjective opinions of what they constitute to be morally right and wrong. On a personal level, it pains me to see communities side with fear instead of tolerance , and it pains me even more to see our elected officials diverging from the principles and tradition of tolerance that has made this country a beacon of freedom to the rest of the world. I pray for the day when we finally make that cognitive leap to accept our neighbors and citizens for who they are, and not to force they're own individual platitudes into becoming policy. Until that day, please let all matters of moral ambiguity to be decided directly by the citizens of the state and by the citizens of local, cities, neighborhoods, and communities with in that state. And to our elected officials, please stop cowering in fear of losing the next election, or losing contributors every time there is a "hot button issue". Please know your place in this country, that you are in your position to uphold and enforce not only the laws that are in place, but to include the founding principles of this country in your legislative decision process. Freedom and Truth.

JAMES JACKSON,,," All the dispensaries accept credit cards and checks",,,AGAIN Jackson spews un truths and anyone can get a medical clearance and I mean ANYONE..ONE ONLY has to look at the list of reasons and they cover anything under the sun...why no receipts also when you buy some..I know, I was there and i got a medical clearance from going into a room with a screen on the wall with some doctor sitting behind his desk and within two minutes, I was cleared. If the cities are going to allow this,,then the cities should also make sure the dispenseries are in line with tax laws and codes that all businesses have to do,,I wonder what uncle same would say about no taxation or record keeping is kept at the majority of them..this is not about whether marijuana should be legal or not but at least treat these dispenseries as any other business.VERY FEW DISPENSERIES ACCEPT CREDIT CARDS FOR FEAR OF BEING TRACED ON THE TRANSACTION.

kevin miller ur on point....period...im sick of watching it happen...we vote for a law,and it gets ignored...kind of reminds me of how BUSH got elected president...it pains me to have to get on a 6 to 7 hour round trip to the SF valley on public transportation,just to get my medicine...i suffer from a bad back due to car accidents,yet santa clarita decided thats what i have to do...if i wanna keep my liver.


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