With the tussle over medical marijuana ongoing across the state, a local case scheduled next month before the California Supreme Court is being closely eyed.
The case of City of Riverside v. Inland Empire Patients Health and Wellness Center will be heard in February by the justices. The case will ask this question: Can cities ban medical marijuana clinics?
Medical marijuana is legal in California, but many say the law's language is loose when it comes to dispensaries and storefronts. As such, Riverside County and nearly all of its cities have banned pot facilities.
All Southwest Riverside County cities have bans or moratoriums in place, and dozens of dispensaries across the area have been shuttered by authorities.
The bans received support when in November 2011 Fourth District Appellate Court Judge Carol Codrington ruled against Inland Empire Patients Health and upheld the City of Riverside's ban on medical marijuana clinics. Inland Empire Patients Health appealed the decision and the state Supreme Court agreed to take the case.
The bans are illegal, according to Lanny Swerdlow of Inland Empire Patients Health. He says the pressure to crack down on dispensaries has been coming from police, not the public.
Complicating the argument is the issue of federal versus state: Cannabis is an illegal drug under federal law.
But the state Supreme Court will take up that issue too. The Pack lower-court decision held that some dispensary regulations may be preempted by federal law.
In the eyes of the Feds, there is no distinction. agency spokeswoman Amy Roderick told Patch, “It is a Schedule l substance under federal law. For us, there is no argument.”