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POT: California State Supreme Court Rules Pot Shops Can Be Banned Locally

The war on pot continues in California.  File Photo

The war on pot continues in California. File Photo

By Brian Hews

In a milestone decision that will affect cities throughout the Southeast Los Angeles County area and the entire state for that matter, California’s highest court ruled this week that local government agencies now have the legal authority to ban storefront pot shops within their borders.

The California Supreme Court decision on Monday now gives cities such as Norwalk, Cerritos, Artesia, Lakewood, La Palma and Downey specific “zoning powers to keep out medical marijuana dispensaries.”

The ruling by the highest court in California was unanimous and the decision was announced on Monday afternoon.

California counties accepting applications for...

California counties accepting applications for medical marijuana as of 25-Mar-2008 California counties not accepting applications as of 25-Mar-08 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The legal challenge came from a case involving the city of Riverside and an ordinance in that city back in 2010.

It is estimated that more than 200 jurisdictions  statewide have similar prohibitions on retail pot sales.

Marijuana advocates had argued that allowing local government to bar dispensaries thwarts the intent of the law California voters approved nearly 17 years ago that legalized marijuana use for health purposes.

“While several California cities and counties allow medical marijuana facilities, it may not be reasonable to expect every community to do so,” the court wrote in its decision on Monday

“While some counties and cities might consider themselves well suited to accommodating medical marijuana dispensaries, conditions in other communities might lead to the reasonable decision that such facilities within their borders, even if carefully sited, well managed, and closely monitored, would present unacceptable local risks and burdens.”

Medical marijuana advocates were not surprised by the ruling. “The court essentially affirmed the status quo,” commented Cal NORML director Dale Gieringer. “Local governments may choose to allow or limit dispensaries as they please.”

The issue of medical pot shops recently here in the Southeast Los Angeles County area landed one veteran city councilman behind bars in a sting conducted by Federal officials.

Councilman Joseph Serrano of Santa Fe Springs agreed to plead guilty in connection to a major federal bribery case that involved the accepting thousands of dollars in cash bribes from the operator of a marijuana dispensary doing business in the tiny industrial community.

English: Medical marijuana neon sign at a disp...

English: Medical marijuana neon sign at a dispensary on Ventura Boulevard in Los Angeles, California, U.S.A. 日本語: アメリカ合衆国ロサンゼルスのベンチュラ・ブルバードにある医療用大麻を取り扱う薬局の看板。 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Court records previously published by Los Cerritos Community Newspaper confirmed that Serrano took thousands of dollars in cash bribes from the operator of a marijuana store who wanted to influence the city to allow his store to stay open.

After his arrest, Serrano immediately resigned from the Santa Fe Springs City Council.

“Proposition 215,  and the Medical Marijuana Policy (aka: Senate Bill 420) create no all-encompassing scheme for the control and regulation of marijuana for medicinal use,” the Court pointed out, adding, “though the Legislature stated it intended the MMP to ‘promote; uniform application of the CUA and to ‘enhance’ access to medical marijuana through collective cultivation, the MMP itself adopts but limited means of addressing these ideals.”

“Of course, nothing prevents future efforts by the (California State) Legislature, or by the People, to adopt a different approach,” the Court concluded.

There are two bills currently in the state legislature, AB473 (Assemblyman Tom Ammiano of San Francisco) and SB439 (Senator Darrell Steinberg), seek to better regulate medical marijuana throughout California.

In Norwalk, the city council enacted an strict ordinance nearly four years ago that specifically defines language regarding the operation of a Medical Marijuana Dispensary.

Norwalk Public Information Officer Jeff Hobbs reminded LCCN in an interview on Tuesday that “no person shall use any property in the City as a medical marijuana dispensary.”

“We are going to follow the absolute letter of the law here in Norwalk,” Hobbs said.

A spokesperson for the City of Cerritos did not return calls regarding this situation.

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