California's highest court says local governments have legal authority to ban store-front pot shops within their borders.
The state Supreme Court ruled today that cities and counties can use their zoning powers to keep out medical marijuana dispensaries.
Marijuana advocates had argued that allowing local government to bar dispensaries thwarts the intent of prop 215, the law California voters approved nearly 17 years ago that legalized marijuana use for health purposes.
The decision is poised to have a ripple effect in municipalities all across the state, including Redding. The city council banned store-front marijuana collectives in late 2011, but today a legal battle rages on and more than 10 collectives remain open. Owners said Monday, this latest decision won't change that.
It's the ruling city officials have been waiting for.
“It does decide the issue of whether the City of Redding’s ban is legal, and it is,” said Redding Assistant City Attorney Barry DeWalt.
The state's high court says municipalities can restrict, and even ban storefront marijuana collectives. Something Redding did in December of 2011.
“My expectation would be that those existing medical marijuana cooperatives would comply with the law, with the city’s ordinance,” said DeWalt.
The ruling gives teeth to Redding’s ban, but it does not mean change is eminent. Jess Brewer of Trusted Friends says he'll stay open.
“I am here to take care of my patients until they come lock my doors,” said Brewer.
Brewer interprets the ruling differently, saying it opens the door for cities to regulate collectives. Fear of doing so is why Redding shut them down in the first place.
“At the city council meetings they were just stating they were going to close us because they could not regulate us. Now they can regulate us,” said Brewer.
The ban still stands, and with both sides unwilling to cooperate, legal action will move forward, now strongly favoring the city.
“Now that we have this case, I think that it provides a really solid framework for settlement of the litigation,” said DeWalt.
But Brewer, who faces losing his business and over a million dollars in fines, says the true problem will still exist.
“It’s not going to be gone, they are just going to get rid of safe access for medical marijuana, they are not getting rid of marijuana,” said Brewer.
This battle between the city and collectives is not unique to Redding. Across the state there are around 200 similar situations.