The case medical marijuana proponents have been watching will head to the California Supreme Court for oral arguments Feb. 5 and could be decided by spring.
City of Riverside v. Inland Empire Patient's Health and Wellness Center could end up deciding whether or not cities can ban pot shops outright.
Today we talked to J. David Nick, attorney for the dispensary who, of course, he thinks the bout will go to patients' rights:
The court's decision is going to determine the future of medical marijuana outlets throughout California. State law cannot be contradicted by local municipalities.
He thinks the decision will force those cities that essentially ban dispensaries — Beverly Hills, Santa Monica, Culver City — to open their doors to the establishments.
Nick argues that while it might be legal for municipalities to create zoning limitations for pot shops — how far away they can be from schools, for example — it's not legit for them to ban them outright because they don't like the type of business involved.
The case stems from Riverside's own pot shop ban and the city's view that Inland Empire Patient's Health and Wellness Center was a “public nuisance” that had to close down.
According to an appeals court summary, defendants, including other parties such as Lanny Swardlow, contend that …
… Riverside's ordinance banning MMD's [medical marijuana dispensaries] throughout Riverside is preempted by state law; specifically the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 … and the Medical Marijuana Program …
In 2011 a state appeals court sided with Riverside and said the Wellness Center indeed violated municipal “procedural requirements” that had nothing to do with the city's stance on pot and whether or not state law prohibits marijuana dispensary bans.
Nick insists this is all about banning pot shops outright and not about niggling over city code and zoning rules.
“They're trying to shut them out,” he says.
The Wellness Center recently had its state corporate status suspended as a result of the lack of a 2009 state tax filing that Nick says will be dealt with ASAP. Though the suspension could pull the Center out of the case (it would go on because there are other plaintiffs), he says the issue will be remedied by Tuesday.
In the meantime, the attorney is predicting the big decision will be announced by April.