A three judge panel in the 4th District (Riverside) Court of Appeal of the State of California just ruled that cities and counties are free to ban medical marijuana dispensaries in their jursidictions. This case followed another case in Long Beach where the 9th Circuit Court of Appeal ruled that Long Beach could not make laws specifically authorizing medical marijuana dispensaries because the drug still remains illegal under federal law.
Taken together the new ruling are very damaging for the medical marijuana community. At least in so far as it pertains to dispensaries. While these new laws will have little effect on home growers and small co-ops, this may spell the beginning of the end of the store front pot shop.
Both sides of the debate seem destined to appeal the decision to the California Supreme Court. Based upon the facts of the new rulings, I'm not sure how anxious I would be to argue my case about medical marijuana dispensaries before the California Supreme Court. Currently the momentum seems to be in favor of the other side. But let's keep our eye on the ball. All of the attacks seem to be on the store front "sales" of marijuana. Not on an individual's use of the drug. We must remember that no law has ever made it legal to sell marijuana, only to use it with a medical recommendation. Further, even though a group can pitch in together to grow marijuana and share in its production costs and labor needs, the group cannot sell the product to its members or to others.
My advice has always been the same. Keep a low profile and you are much less likely to catch the attention of the media, law enforcement or even the IRS. If I open a store on Ventura Boulevard, I am expecting to get attention. If I open a small co-op in an industrial park in Van Nuys, or Chatsworth, I am a lot less likely to attract the attention of the government. And, If this model does not sound familiar to you, I am making reference to the porn industry that has long been operating in plain view right here in our own San Fernando Valley.
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