Appellate Court Upholds Marijuana Dispensary Ban

By Robyn Hagan Cain on November 11, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Despite California's reputation a haven for liberal-living, the state's 15-year-old medical marijuana law could be in jeopardy following setbacks from a state appellate court, and the promise of pot dispensary crackdowns from California's four federal prosecutors.

A California appellate court ruled this week that state law does not preempt cities or counties from implementing a marijuana dispensary ban in City of Riverside v. Inland Empire Patient's Health and Wellness Center.

While other cities have restricted the location of dispensaries through zoning ordinances, Riverside is the first city to win a case challenging a city-wide marijuana dispensary ban, reports The San Francisco Chronicle.

The Fourth Appellate District Court also concluded that Inland Empire Center's medical marijuana dispensary violated Riverside's valid and enforceable zoning ordinance banning dispensaries. In turn, the code violation constituted a nuisance per se subject to abatement.

Since Riverside was likely to prevail on the merits at trial, the appellate court rejected Inland Empire's argument that the trial court abused its discretion in issuing a preliminary injunction enjoining the operation of dispensaries in Riverside.

Riverside City Attorney Greg Priamos told the AP that his office will move to quickly shut down 15 dispensaries operating in the city, while Inland Empire founder Lanny Swerdlow says he will appeal the case to the California Supreme Court.

The decision, which unambiguously addresses federal and state law preemption, is likely to spur more cities to enact their own medical marijuana dispensary bans.

Americans for Safe Access says 168 cities and 17 counties have enacted marijuana dispensary bans, while Coalition for a Drug Free California estimates the bans at 225 and 15. Both organizations say that more than 80 cities and about 10 counties have moratoriums, while about 40 cities and 10 counties have ordinances that allow dispensaries, reports the Los Angeles Times.

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