A group of medical marijuana advocates is appealing a decision by a California appellate court that could allow communities across the state to ban home pot grows.
The Live Oak Patients, Caregivers and Supporters Association filed a petition with the state Supreme Court on Jan. 3 seeking to overturn the decision by the Third District Court of Appeal. That court, which covers Northern California, ruled in November that municipalities may prohibit home cultivation.
The group’s position, outlined in the petition by Joe Elford, chief counsel for Americans for Safe Access, is that such bans violate the state’s 1996 medical marijuana law.
Early in 2013, the state Supreme Court ruled that localities are within their powers to ban medical pot dispensaries in their boundaries. More than 200 towns, cities and counties have done so, while a smaller number have sanctioned their weed stores by enacting tight local regulations.
In the wake of that ruling, the appellate court for the Third District received a case involving the city of Live Oak. City leaders, intent on purging their community of weed, banned all cultivation, indoors and out. Patients sued.
The appellate court judges ruled that the Supreme Court decision applied not only to dispensaries but to cultivation as well. That line of decision would allow the courts to completely gut the MMJ law passed by voters 18 years ago.
“If you ban dispensaries and you ban cultivation, you’re ripping the heart out of California’s medical marijuana laws,” Elford said last month. “This decision conflicts with the intent of the electorate and legislature and should not be allowed to stand.”
Indeed, the Supreme Court itself has expanded cultivation rights in the past rather than shrinking them, so it’s not clear the appellate decision will survive. On the other hand, the courts have been eager lately to meet the demands of communities unhappy with the presence of something voters approved by a sizable margin nearly two decades ago.
Local governments, meanwhile, have been banking on an appellate ruling that could be overturned. Since the Third District decision, Fresno County supervisors enacted a total marijuana ban, as did the the City of Tracy. Selma, Cal., prohibited all cultivation but then changed course, allowing permitted indoor grows.
Of course, this may all soon be a moot point. If Californians enact legal recreational weed, as they are expected to do this year or in 2016, it will likely become much easier for patients and others to obtain pot without constant government hassle.