State cannabis laws still in flux

San Francisco officials suspended the City’s medical marijuana dispensary permitting in January 2012 while they awaited rulings from the state Supreme Court on the rights of California cities to either permit or ban cannabis dispensaries.

At the time of the suspension, 13 dispensary permit applications were put on hold at the S.F. Department of Public Health, including an application for 2414 Lombard Street.

In Pack et al. v. Long Beach, the Second Appellate District Court of Appeal ruled that much of Long Beach’s medical-marijuana ordinance was in violation of federal law, invalidating several of that city’s medical marijuana provisions, including their permitting process for collectives and dispensaries.

On Aug. 22, 2012, the California State Supreme Court dismissed the appellate court case, thereby reinstating the rights of cities to permit medical marijuana cultivation and distribution under California law.

There are two separate medical marijuana appellate court rulings that are still in appeal before the Supreme Court. In City of Riverside v. Inland Empire Patients’ Health and Wellness Center, Inc., the appellate court determined that California state law does not prevent cities from prohibiting dispensaries through restrictive zoning regulations. In the most recent case, Los Angeles v. Alternative Cannabis Collective, et al., the court of appeals invalidated a Los Angeles County ban on cannabis collectives, finding that it conflicted with the state law.

In the meantime, two licensed San Francisco dispensaries were closed down under pressure from the federal Justice Department at the end of July. These were the seventh and eighth dispensaries closed down by landlords after being threatened with property seizure and prison sentences by the United States attorney.

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