The Coast News Group
Community Commentary

COMMUNITY COMMENTARY: North County cities say no to marijuana dispensaries — and courts have upheld

All of our North County cities prohibit marijuana dispensaries, yet we see them opening up more and more all over.
North County cities have enacted legislation similar to that of over 200-plus cities in California to prohibit marijuana dispensaries. So why do we still see them in our retail centers? Good question. 
Marijuana dispensaries are basically thumbing their noses at our cities’ municipals codes and operating illegally. This hardly seems fair to an honest business owner who wants to sell flowers or shoes, and who has opened and operated their business within the law. 
Cities that prohibit marijuana dispensaries have had to resort to filing lawsuits in order to close down the illegal use. 
Thankfully our courts here locally and across Southern California have repeatedly and consistently sided with cities against illegally operating marijuana dispensaries. 
Cities exercise nearly exclusive control over land use. They regularly use their land use authority to limit or prohibit the location of various types of businesses and operations within their communities. They do this to protect our health, safety and welfare. 
Marijuana dispensaries are not expressly mentioned in either the Compassionate Use Act, or CUA, or in the Medical Marijuana Program Act, or MMP; and in the recent City of Claremont v. Kruse case the court confirmed that these laws do not pre-empt a city’s enactment or enforcement of land use, zoning or business license laws as they apply to marijuana dispensaries.
The courts understand that the voters did not enact legislation to allow businesses to sell marijuana. Proposition 215 allows cooperatives or collectives to operate in a closed circuit network, but not for profit in a retail setting. Additionally, Proposition 215 did not “legalize” marijuana, instead it provides for an affirmative defense against prosecution for those patients who are authorized through a doctor’s recommendation to use marijuana for medicinal purposes, or for a caregiver who meets the definition.
A caregiver is defined by then-Attorney General Jerry Brown as “a person who is designated by a qualified patient and has consistently assumed responsibility for the housing, health, or safety of the patient.” It is not possible the typical 20-year-old you see behind the counter at your local marijuana dispensary fits this definition of a caregiver to every person entering the dispensary to buy marijuana.
If you read Proposition 215 and SB 420, there is no mention of marijuana dispensary storefronts. And if you look at then-Attorney General Jerry Brown’s guidelines on this issue he states, “Although marijuana dispensaries have been operating in California for years, dispensaries, as such, are not recognized under the law.” He goes on to say “dispensaries that merely require patients to complete a form summarily designating the business owner as their primarily caregiver — and then offering marijuana in exchange for cash ‘donations’ — are likely unlawful.” 
Prop. 215 passed because the electorate felt compassion toward the truly sick, those with HIV/AIDS and cancer, to allow them to smoke marijuana. But abuse to the original intent of the voters has been rampant, spiraling out of control by unethical business owners seeing an opportunity to make large profits on the backs perfectly healthy and generally naïve young people.
Our cities have an obligation to project our municipal codes and quality of life.  Thanks to a dedicated group of public servants our cities are winning this important battle against those who think our city’s municipal codes and laws don’t apply to them.