Pubdate: Sat, 17 Mar 2012
Source: Record Searchlight (Redding, CA)
Copyright: 2012 Record Searchlight


The bottom-line result of Judge Stephen Baker's ruling Thursday 
against Redding's attempt to close its medical-marijuana dispensaries 
reflects straightforward common sense: The city cannot declare 
wholesale nuisances of what the state has specifically authorized, 
especially without evidence of actual problems.

But the legal path to that decision is anything but straightforward, 
and any hope for clear common sense in the handling of medical 
marijuana in California is increasingly elusive, as a maddening 
string of contradictory appellate-court rulings rewrite the law 
almost by the week.

Redding's decision to ban its storefront collectives, remember, was 
prompted by a November court decision (Pack v. Long Beach) that 
invalidated any local licensing systems, like Redding's, that 
officially authorized marijuana sales. Federal law pre-empts such 
ordinances, the court held. But the California Supreme Court has 
subsequently accepted an appeal of that case and "depublished" the 
decision, meaning it is no longer binding law, at least this month.

Meanwhile, the key Court of Appeal decision out of Orange County that 
lost Redding the case came after the city and the dispensaries had 
made their arguments and Baker even issued a tentative ruling. The 
law - or at least the way it is interpreted by higher courts - 
changed repeatedly in over the course of one, relatively brief lawsuit.

Remember when President Obama's Justice Department said it wouldn't 
prosecute medical-marijuana cases where the growers or patients were 
following state law? These days, how's anyone supposed to know what's 
legal and what isn't?

The Supreme Court sooner or later will hear and settle some of these 
disputes, with any luck bringing clarity to the law. That can't come 
soon enough.

In the meantime, cities including Redding that decided to launch 
costly crackdowns would do well to revisit their strategy and 
reconsider the virtues of waiting and seeing, without letting up on 
actual nuisances. Even if they're just trying to maintain order and 
follow the law, these days the law in this field changes faster than 
the ink on court rulings can dry.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom