Cal NORML Not Conceding Fight Over Weed Cultivation Ban

By William Peacock, Esq. on December 12, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Fresh off a defeat in a California appellate court, plaintiff James Maral, with the support of the California branch of NORML (National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws), will petition the state's high court for review of a decision that upheld the City of Live Oak's ban on cultivating marijuana for personal use.

According to California NORML, Maral, 42, suffers from compartment syndrome, a painful and life- and limb-threatening condition caused by insufficient blood flow to nerves and muscles, as well as six damaged discs in his back from work as a heavy equipment driver. He's also the caretaker for his mother, who has severe diverticulitis and Crohn's disease. Marijuana presumably helps with his pain management, allowing him to care for his mother, but the nearest dispensary is two hours away.

"The only thing I'm fighting for is the patients who just want a couple of plants in their backyard," Maral told NORML. "I'm not willing to let my mother die or live out the rest of her time in a hospital."

Cal. Supreme Court's Decision Controlled?

As we mentioned earlier this month, the appellate court didn't have much wiggle room when hearing Maral's case. After the California Supreme Court upheld a ban on dispensaries in Riverside earlier this year, holding that such bans were a proper exercise of the city's zoning and police powers, the decision was all-but-made on a ban on personal cultivation.

And though the Compassionate Use Act (Proposition 215) and the Medical Marijuana Program provide exemptions from prosecution for medical marijuana-related offenses, the exemption is from criminal law, not zoning laws or nuisance ordinances.

Can That Case be Distinguished?

The city justified its ordnance out of fear of property damage, increased crime, the nuisance of noxious odors, the inability of the state laws to prevent recreational use, and because the city wished to comply with federal law.

The Inland Empire precedent upheld Riverside's ban on dispensaries for similar reasons, which would seem to foreclose any argument, but there is a crucial difference between dispensaries, which attract customers (and some might argue criminals), and which handle large amounts of federally-illegal activity, and a man cultivating a handful of plants for personal use.

Will that distinction be enough to allow the Supreme Court to distinguish their months-old precedent?

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