AB 1300 Gives More Power to Local Authorities

A new state law intended to clarify local governments’ role in regulating medical cannabis dispensaries seems to support Redding’s and Shasta County’s recent bans on the storefronts, local officials claim.

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But a lobbyist for local dispensaries, who differs from state and nationwide advocacy groups worried that the law does just that, believes the new law could permit Redding to withdraw its dispensary ban.

Assembly Bill 1300, signed by Gov. Jerry Brown in August and taking effect this month, modifies California’s Medical Marijuana Program to permit cities, counties and other local governments to adopt ordinances regulating the “location, operation or establishment of a medical marijuana cooperative or collective,” according to the bill.

Assemblyman Bob Blumenfield, D-Woodland Hills, said he wrote AB 1300 to help local governments handle dispensaries that are breaking local regulations and protect cities from lawsuits brought by medical cannabis advocates who argue state laws are the only guidelines for dispensaries.

“If this claim were substantiated, communities would be virtually powerless in deciding dispensary concentration, location, crime mitigation, business licensure, taxation, and use permit conditions,” Blumenfield wrote in an argument supporting the bill.

Redding City Attorney Rick Duvernay said the bill seems to support the city’s ability to pass ordinances regulating dispensaries, including ordinances deeming the storefronts public nuisances.

“There is nothing in the bill or the history of the bill that would suggest the author intended to preclude ordinances that ban,” Duvernay said. “In fact, it seems to be quite the opposite: AB 1300 contemplates local governments having the full authority to make the choice whether to regulate or ban.”

The City Council approved Redding’s dispensary ban in November ban through an urgency ordinance, drawing in-part on the then-forthcoming enactment of AB 1300.

County supervisors in December also drew on the then-pending enactment of the bill to support the county’s ban on dispensaries, Shasta County Counsel Rubin Cruse said.

“I certainly am of the opinion that the bill authorizes the county Board of Supervisors to take the action they did,” Cruse said.

Case law upholds bans as a form of regulation, Cruse said.

But Max Del Real, a lobbyist for the medical marijuana industry whose clients include local dispensaries, said Redding can now legally regulate dispensaries because of AB 1300.

“There’s still an opportunity for success on both sides of the aisles,” Del Real said recently.

The city should recognize the dispensaries that were licensed and allow them to continue operating, he said.

“Those are your partners,” Del Real said. Those are the people who went through the background check; those are the one who paid the fees.”

Alec Henderson, who’s representing five medical marijuana dispensaries in a legal challenge to Redding’s ban, said the bill does seem to support the city’s ability to regulate dispensaries.

“I know that my opponents tend to feel that it indicates better grounds for banning dispensaries,” he said.

AB 1300 riled medical cannabis advocates statewide in the months before its approval. The California Cannabis Coalition, California chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and Americans for Safe Access called for the bill’s defeat, claiming it would uphold the ability of cities to ban dispensaries and deny patients safe access to medical cannabis.

Redding and Shasta County also drew on a pair of recent appellate court decisions upholding a municipality’s ability to ban and striking down permitting systems for dispensaries as conflicting with federal law.

Those decisions, which were published into state law, were recently invalidated by the California Supreme Court as justices decided last week to hear those and two other cases involving medical cannabis dispensaries.

Lower-court decisions are automatically de-published when the Supreme Court hears a case unless justices decide otherwise, according to the Office of the Clerk for the Supreme Court.

Henderson said if the Supreme Court does uphold the appellate court ruling that invalidated permitting systems, that decision would likely invalidate AB 1300.

Redding and Shasta County will likely wait out the Supreme Court’s decision before revisiting their bans, their legal counsels said.

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Location: Redding, CA
Source: Record Searchlight
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Copyright: 2012 Record Searchlight
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