Court Considers Medical Marijuana Ban

Friday, Sep 25, 2009  |  Updated 10:15 AM PDT
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Pot Talk is NORML in San Francisco

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Oh, THAT pot. Ummm, it's for the dog.

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Justices are considering arguments that might determine the future of medical marijuana dispensaries in California.

On Wednesday, Justices William Rylaarsdam, Richard Aronson and Richard D. Fybel heard arguments from attorneys representing a medical mairjuana advocacy organization, the city of Anaheim, law enforcement authorities and a group of about 37 other cities prohibiting medical marijuana dispensaries.

The case stems from an Anaheim law banning three or more people at a time from dispensing medical marijuana.

Qualified Patients Association, which had been in business for about five months when Anaheim passed its law on medical marijuana dispensaries in July 2007, sued and lost in Orange County Superior Court in September 2007. The association appealed in March.

Proponents argue cities have no right to ban the dispensaries because voters approved dispensing medical marijuana with the passage of Proposition 215 in 1996. City law should not supersede state law, said attorney Joe Elford, who represents medical marijuana advocacy organization Americans for Safe Access.

Attorney Moses Johnson, who represented Anaheim, said the city’s law is not banning the dispensing of medical marijuana, just prohibiting any group of three people or more from dispensing the marijuana. That does not prohibit one person giving another person cannabis for medicinal purposes.

City officials are concerned that storefront businesses attract crime, according to Johnson and Martin Mayer, an attorney who represented law enforcement authorities at the hearing.

Johnson and Mayer also said the operators are, in effect, operating for- profit businesses, charging high prices in opposition to Attorney General Jerry Brown's guidelines requiring them to be non-profit organizations,

The justices’ ruling will likely reflect only whether cities must go along with state laws regarding medical marijuana dispensaries and cannot pass their own ordinances.

They will rule sometime within 90 days.

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