A state appeals court affirmed the legality of medical marijuana dispensaries under California law and rejected bans imposed by municipalities.
A three-justice panel of the 2nd District Court of Appeal held Monday that Los Angeles County's ban on medical marijuana is "preempted" by state law. The decision reverses a preliminary injunction granted to the county by Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Ann Jones in May 2011.
The Beverly Hills City Council took legislative action to ban dispensaries in July 2010, enacting a that members six months later.
"Staff believes that the establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries in Beverly Hills has the potential to change the character of Beverly Hills," Director of Community Development Susan H. Keene told the council in July 2010. "Our general planned policy … states that the city should encourage the existing industries in the city such as luxury retail, hotels, tourism, and entertainment and media uses. Medical marijuana dispensaries, since it is not one of the existing industries, does not encourage or support that [plan]."
On July 24, the Los Angeles City Council is scheduled to vote on a dispensary ban similar to the one enacted by the county that was just rejected by the appeals court.
"The [appellate court] decision puts a giant wrench into the plans of City Attorney Trutanich to persuade the city council to enact a ban," Joe Elford, chief counsel of the advocacy group Americans for Safe Access, said in a statement.
"Los Angeles County's total, per se nuisance ban against medical marijuana dispensaries directly contradicts the legislature's intent," Justice Robert Mallano wrote in the 19-page unanimous decision.
The county sued the Alternative Medicinal Cannabis Collective in March 2011.
"The court of appeal could not have been clearer in expressing that medical marijuana dispensaries are legal under state law, and that municipalities have no right to ban them," Elford said. "This landmark decision should have a considerable impact on how the California Supreme Court rules in the various dispensary cases it's currently reviewing."