Medical marijuana: Court rules California cities can ban pot shops


Is medical marijuana the wonder-drug it's cracked up to be?


Stacey Leasca

LOS ANGELES -- Cities have the right to ban medical marijuana dispensaries inside their borders, the California Supreme Court ruled Monday.

The court ruled unanimously to uphold a ban on pot shops enacted by the city of Riverside in 2010.

"While some counties and cities might consider themselves well suited to accommodating medical marijuana dispensaries, conditions in other communities might lead to the reasonable decision that such facilities within their borders, even if carefully sited, well managed, and closely monitored, would present unacceptable local risks and burdens," Justice Marvin R. Baxter wrote for the court.

Justice Baxter cited the possibility of increased crime, congestion, blight, and drug abuse that may come from facilities that dispense marijuana. 

Advocates of medical marijuana argued that allowing cities to ban pot shops violates the intent of the state's medical marijuana law allowing access to anyone with a doctor's prescription.

California was the first state in the nation to allow the use and sale of medical marijuana.

Prop. 215, which was passed in 1996, was designed to encourage the state and federal governments to adopt a distribution plan.

When the state failed to do so, cities were left on their own to regulate the dispensaries using zoning laws.

According to advocacy group Americans for Safe Access, some 200 jurisdictions statewide have banned retail marijuana sales. Monday's decision is expected to lead to more bans in cities across California.