A Shasta County Superior Court judge has denied the Redding’s request for a court order that would have closed down medical marijuana dispensaries across the city.
The ruling surprised city officials, who had said they didn’t believe a recent Southern California appellate court decision striking down a dispensary ban in Lake Forest would have any impact on the local case.
Judge Stephen Baker’s ruling late Wednesday relies heavily on the 4th District Court of Appeal decision in city of Lake Forest v. Evergreen, a ruling published Feb. 29 – two days after Baker heard arguments and took the local case under submission.
The appellate court in Lake Forest ruled the city violated state law with its attempt to ban dispensing medical marijuana by declaring the dispensaries nuisances. Lake Forest tried to label its dispensaries nuisances solely because of their existence and not because anything they were doing was illegal, the court ruled.
“Under the ( Lake Forest’s ) ban, a medical marijuana dispensary always constitutes a nuisance, though the Legislature has concluded otherwise,” a panel of judges said in the appellate ruling.
State law allows dispensaries to operate, provided the medical marijuana is grown on site, according to the ruling.
“The Lake Forest case is persuasive, and stands for the proposition that an outright ban that declares a dispensary a nuisance merely by virtue of its existence is impermissible,” Baker said in his ruling. “Also, there is no evidence here as to whether the dispensaries are violating any regulations, such as the requirement that dispensary activities be tied to a cultivation site.”
Redding’s dispensary owners were pleased with the decision that lets them continue to operate as their challenge to the city’s ban continues toward a possible trial.
Only about seven storefronts remain open in the city.
“I think the judge made a fair decision,” said Natalie Fuellenbach, spokeswoman for Herbs and Edibles on Lake Boulevard.
Jess Brewer, executive director for Trusted Friends on Pine Street, said early Thursday afternoon he’d already received congratulatory phone calls from his members. Brewer is a plaintiff in the legal challenge to Redding’s ban.
“I’m just happy with the judge’s decision,” Brewer said. “We’ll be able to stay in business and hopefully be able to serve our patients and Shasta County.”
Assistant City Attorney Barry De Walt, who’s representing the city in the local case, said his office was aware of the Lake Forest case but he didn’t think it would affect Baker’s decision.
That echoes comments made recently by City Attorney Rick Duvernay.
“This case stands for a proposition that a total ban is not permitted and the city didn’t enact a total ban,” De Walt said.
Redding still allows patients to collectively grow medical marijuana in groups of nine or less.
“I was certain that would be the result,” Redlands Attorney James DeAguilera said of Baker’s ruling. He’s representing Cannabis Club, on Westside Road; California Patient Collective, on Churn Creek Road; Nature’s Nexus, on Hartnell Avenue; Planet Herb, on Hilltop Drive; and Family Tree Care Center, on Bechelli Lane.
Officials in Lake Forest are asking the California Supreme Court to review that case, according to the Orange County Register.
“What better thing could happen than have Lake Forest come,” said Alec Henderson, who’s representing Trusted Friends and Herbs and Edibles.
Baker issued a tentative ruling Feb. 27 to grant the city’s request for the injunction. That ruling wasn’t adopted when he took the case under submission after a hearing the same day.
The Lake Forest case hadn’t been published at that point.
“Then this case comes that saves the day, which is fantastic,” Henderson said.
De Walt said his office will update the City Council on the case in closed session at Tuesday’s meeting. Council members will then decide how to proceed.
‘This motion is not the end of the case by any stretch of the imagination,” he said.