Bloomberg News

California Cities Can Ban Marijuana Dispensaries, Court Says (1)

May 06, 2013

California cities are free to block medical marijuana dispensaries from setting up shop within their borders, the California Supreme Court said in a ruling that could affect hundreds of pot stores around the state.

The San Francisco-based court in a decision today said there’s nothing in two California laws legalizing medical marijuana that prevents municipalities from barring cannabis stores under their jurisdiction. The decision upheld an ordinance by Riverside, California, which, like more than 170 localities in the state, has banned the dispensaries.

California medical marijuana laws “do not establish a comprehensive state system of legalized medical marijuana,” the court said in the unanimous decision. The statutes don’t “override the zoning, licensing, and police powers of local jurisdictions; or mandate local accommodation of medical marijuana cooperatives, collectives, or dispensaries.”

The ruling came in a lawsuit by Inland Empire Patients’ Health & Wellness Center Inc., a Riverside pot dispensary that sought to overturn a city ordinance barring its business. The dispensary, citing a law voters approved in 1996 to legalize medical marijuana, argued that cities can only regulate dispensaries’ operation or location, not ban them altogether.

David Nick, an attorney for the center, didn’t immediately respond to a phone message seeking comment on the ruling.

The Inland Empire dispensary in Riverside is one of hundreds of pot stores in California created since voters passed the Compassionate Use Act, which “removes state-level criminal and civil sanctions from specified medical marijuana activities,” according to the decision.

Federal prosecutors have taken steps to shut the state’s largest marijuana dispensary, Oakland’s Harborside Health Center, which sells 70 types of marijuana, makes $20 million a year and offers home delivery.

The case is Riverside v. Inland Empire Patients’ Health & Wellness Center, S198638, California Supreme Court (San Francisco).

To contact the reporter on this story: Karen Gullo in San Francisco at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at

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