Pubdate: Sat, 09 Feb 2013
Source: Record Searchlight (Redding, CA)
Copyright: 2013 Record Searchlight
Author: Jenny Espino
Note: The Associated Press contributed to this report.


California's highest court weighed in this week on the medical
marijuana debate, even showing some sympathy for local government as
it heard arguments over whether they can restrict retail

The highly anticipated ruling by the state Supreme Court is expected
in 90 days and should bring clarity to medical marijuana laws mired in

The case, which stems from the city of Riverside's ban on storefront
pot shops, is being closely watched by some 200 cities and counties
that have adopted pot shop ordinances. Redding officials and
collectives are still waging a legal battle over the city's ordinance
prohibiting the storefronts.

But neither side ventured to make any predictions about how the court
may rule this spring.

"They were skeptical - yes," said Jess Brewer of those justices who
questioned whether the state's laws on medical marijuana trump local
government control over land use and zoning decisions. Brewer is the
executive director for Trusted Friends, one of the Redding
dispensaries fighting the city's ban. "They were just asking
questions, which is what they are supposed to do. The laws are not
well written. ..

"Whatever the Supreme Court comes up with, will clear up the muddy

City Attorney Rick Duvernay echoed similar sentiments.

"We are hopeful it will provide an answer or at least some direction,
but we know it won't provide all the answers," he said, noting that
Riverside adopted a total ban on collectives, while Redding bans only
collectives with nine or more people and makes other exceptions.

During oral arguments, J. David Nick, a lawyer representing a
dispensary Riverside attempted to close, told the court lawmakers
clearly intended to make marijuana easily and uniformly available for
eligible residents statewide, a goal thwarted by dispensary bans.

Many of the local bans were enacted after the number of retail medical
marijuana outlets boomed in Southern California. This followed a memo
from the U.S. Justice Department stating that prosecuting pot sales
would be a low priority.

Brewer says the laws clearly give people the right to safe access to
medical marijuana. The problem is the laws haven't been specific about

"So what it comes down to is a zoning issue," Brewer

The Redding case is scheduled to go to trial in Shasta County Superior
Court in November.

Assistant City Attorney Barry DeWalt said the case is in the discovery
stage. He said he has a motion for sanctions pending against one of
the lawyers representing the collectives, while two others have been
sanctioned for submitting late responses.

Only about seven storefronts remain open in the city as most of the 16
operating under the city's former permit system either closed before
the ban took effect Dec. 1, 2011 or have since shut down.

DeWalt said in one of those cases involving Golden State Wellness a
permanent injunction and $20,000 in civil penalties were ordered
against the collective.

The Associated Press contributed to this report. 
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