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Cannabis Dispensaries: 


Now What?



By Jim Davis



How embarrassing.  For months I have been berating the city attorney and council for pretending that cannabis dispensaries are “illegal.”  City Attorney Claudia Quintana told me they are “illegal” because they conflict with our business ordinances (they are not listed as an approved business, despite the state’s approval of them).  I questioned that analysis, even though it had been used by the prior city attorney with some success.


Now the California Supreme Court has endorsed Ms. Quintana’s legal analysis and rejected mine.  The court’s rationale, however, is important to note.  The Court does not say that cities may always ban dispensaries.  The Court says they may ban dispensaries if the state has not indicated it wants to pre-empt the city’s traditional land use powers, which the state did not do here.


Which is to say, the Court does not think the statutes passed by the legislature indicate an intent to occupy the field, which would preclude bans by cities.  So cities are free to regulate dispensaries, which includes, in the Court’s view, the power to ban them.  (In my opinion, the statutes do indicate an intent to occupy the field, but my opinion and $5 will get you a nonfat latte; I also think the Court gives short shrift to the difference between regulating and banning, but there are no further appeals.)


So cities can ban dispensaries until the legislature actually does what the statutes require it to do:  “… enhance the access of  patients and caregivers to medical marijuana through [dispensaries].”  The legislature wrote bare bones legislation and left the how up in the air. 


One would hope the legislature and private organizations are working on an initiative or bill to create a single system of providing cannabis to legitimate patients.  The Court said in essence, “We can’t do it for you.”  That applies to our council too.


Note: All opinions expressed in the "Primal Scream" column are those of the writer and not necessarily those of the Vallejo Independent Bulletin