Medical pot ruling mixed
Thursday, August 19, 2010
A much anticipated California court of appeals ruling in what many thought would be a landmark case in California's medical marijuana wars—Qualified Patients Association vs. Anaheim—failed to settle the issue of whether cities can ban medical marijuana dispensaries.
"It doesn't provide either side the clarity both sides were seeking," said Joe Elford, an attorney for Americans for Safe Access, an Oakland-based group that advocates for medical cannabis users. The group had filed an amicus brief on behalf of the Anaheim dispensary.
Cities across the state, including Monterey, Sand City, Marina and Seaside, which have enacted moratoriums on medical pot, were keeping a close eye on the case because some are clearly interested in banning dispensaries outright.
Still, the Aug. 18 decision was at least a partial victory for medical marijuana activists, says Anthony Curiale, a Southern California attorney who represented Qualified Patients. The court ruled unanimously that a city of Anaheim law making it a misdemeanor to operate or participate in a medical marijuana co-op, was illegal; the court found that federal marijuana laws don't trump California's Compassionate Use Act, the voter-approved law, which permits the use and cultivation of medicinal pot.
"The cities have argued they could ban distribution of medical marijuana because it's against federal law," Curiale says. "They can no longer argue they have the right to ban the distribution of medical marijuana." But the appellate judges kicked the decision on whether Anaheim could ban its dispensary back to Orange County Superior Court Judge David Chafee.
His decision is almost certain to be appealed, and the watching and waiting for the appellate court's decision will likely play out again in several months.
In Monterey County, Salinas, Carmel, and P.G. have already enacted medical marijuana dispensary bans.