Gordon Swanson/Shutterstock.com

The ruling came down to concerns over land use, not weed.

The California Supreme Court today ruled that local governments in the state have the right to prevent medical marijuana dispensaries from operating within their jurisdictions, clearing the way for new restrictions in a state known for relatively liberal medical marijuana regulations.

The 1996 "Compassionate Use Act" made medical marijuana legal in the state, and a 2003 bill created an ID program for medical marijuana patients and caregivers. As the Associated Press reports: "Of the 18 states that allow the medical use of marijuana, California is the only one where residents can obtain a doctor's recommendation to consume it for any ailment the physician sees fit as opposed to for only conditions such as AIDS and glaucoma. The state also is alone in not having a system for regulating growers and sellers."

But the court's decision today came down to concerns over land use, not medical marijuana. The court opinion [PDF] notes: "Nothing in the CUA or the MMP expressly or impliedly limits the inherent authority of a local jurisdiction, by its own ordinances, to regulate the use of its land, including the authority to provide that facilities for the distribution of medical marijuana will not be permitted to operate within its borders."

Basically, the court ruled the city of Riverside (the plaintiff in the case) has the right to prohibit dispensaries within its borders. The city's zoning laws ban dispensaries and "may be abated as a public nuisance," as the court opinion explains. The city argued the defendant in the case, Inland Empire Patients Health and Wellness Center, Inc., was in violation of city law.

Americans for Safe Access, a medical marijuana advocacy group, lists 193 cities in the state that have dispensary bans (last updated on March 1.) This ruling supports this right.

Medical marijuana patients could feel the effects of this ruling differently across the state. In theory, it's conceivable that a patient could have legal access to marijuana (according to state law) without practical access to a dispensary.

Top image: Gordon Swanson/Shutterstock.com

About the Author

Most Popular

  1. An illustration of the Memorial Day flood in Ellicott City, Maryland.
    Environment

    In a Town Shaped by Water, the River Is Winning

    Storms supercharged by climate change pose a dire threat to river towns. After two catastrophic floods, tiny Ellicott City faces a critical decision: Rebuild, or retreat?

  2. Environment

    A 13,235-Mile Road Trip for 70-Degree Weather Every Day

    This year-long journey across the U.S. keeps you at consistent high temperatures.

  3. Transportation

    CityLab University: Induced Demand

    When traffic-clogged highways are expanded, new drivers quickly materialize to fill them. What gives? Here’s how “induced demand” works.

  4. A line of stores in Westport, Connecticut
    Equity

    Separated by Design: How Some of America’s Richest Towns Fight Affordable Housing

    In southwest Connecticut, the gap between rich and poor is wider than anywhere else in the country. Invisible walls created by local zoning boards and the state government block affordable housing and, by extension, the people who need it.

  5. A photo of police officers sealing off trash bins prior to the Tokyo Marathon in Tokyo in 2015.
    Life

    Carefully, Japan Reconsiders the Trash Can

    The near-absence of public garbage bins in cities like Tokyo is both a security measure and a reflection of a cultural aversion to littering.