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Some state justices signal support for marijuana-dispensary bans

February 5, 2013 |  1:12 pm

Several members of the California Supreme Court appeared inclined Tuesday to uphold medical marijuana bans by cities and counties.

"The Legislature knows how to say ‘Thou Shall Not Ban Dispensaries,' " Justice Ming W. Chin said during oral arguments Tuesday. “They didn’t say that.”

The state high court is considering whether a Riverside city ban on dispensaries is barred by state laws that authorize cannabis for medical purposes. About 200 cities and counties have such bans and more are expected if the court rules for the local governments.

Medical marijuana advocates argue that the purpose of a 1996 medical marijuana ballot measure was to ensure the sick had access to the drug and contend the bans defeat the law’s stated intention. They say wide swaths of the state will lack dispensaries if the court upholds bans, forcing patients into the black market.

Local governments counter that the state constitution gives them authority over zoning for land use, including the right to ban dispensaries as a “nuisance.” They also contend that a 2004 medical marijuana law passed by the Legislature gave cities and counties the right to prohibit dispensaries altogether. The court’s decision is due within 90 days.


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