Last month the California Second Appellate District threw out the city of Long Beach ordinance regulating medical marijuana dispensaries. If allowed to stand this ruling could disallow the Mendocino County zip tie program.
The October 4 ruling determined the City of Long Beach ordinance regulating medical marijuana dispensaries exceeded the intent of the state’s compassionate use act to protect medical users from state and local prosecution. The basis for the ruling concluded since Long Beach imposed fees and issued permits for dispensaries to operate it had gone “beyond decriminalization into authorization.” This puts the ordinance into violation of federal law by obstructing federal enforcement efforts. The court stated “the CUA simply decriminalizes ( under state law ) the possession and cultivation of medical marijuana; it does not attempt to authorize the possession and cultivation of the drug.”
Whether this will actually affect the Mendocino County medical marijuana cultivation ordinance will depend upon whether the ruling remains published and if the California Supreme Court decides to review it. The ruling was slated to become law within 30 days of the October 4 publication but a challenge was filed October 13 requesting it be “depublished.” In addition, because this ruling appears to be in conflict with prior appeals court opinions, it seems likely an appeal will be made for the California Supreme Court to help clarify the issue. If the higher court chooses to review the case, no action will be required by other jurisdictions potentially affected by the ruling, including Mendocino County, until after the Supreme Court rules.
Following the Long Beach ruling, coupled with the intensified push by federal officials threatening local officials with criminal prosecution if they either pass or refuse to repeal all ordinances allowing medical marijuana facilities, a growing number of cities have begun repealing such ordinances.
According to Mendocino County Counsel Jeanine Nadel, the county has yet to receive any letter from federal agencies challenging the county’s medical marijuana ordinance. She has recommended a wait-and-see approach to the Board of Supervisors on existing ordinances while the Long Beach ruling is being assessed for either depublishing or Supreme Court review. She has also recommended tabling work on any dispensary ordinance until the issue has been clarified.