Note: This piece was first published in Americans For Safe Access‘ Newsletter, sent to subscribers in California on November 23, 2020.
This week California patients received good news in the form of a Fresno County Superior Court Judge ruling against 25 California local governments who filed suit in April of last year to block legal cannabis delivery. The lawsuit, predicated on local control authority provided for in the state constitution, challenged Bureau of Cannabis Control regulations that authorized licensed cannabis delivery into cities and counties that do not permit cannabis retail licensing. Though the ruling imposes no requirements on California local governments to provide safe and legal retail access to patients, it is a long-awaited win for patients, who can now rely on legal medical cannabis delivery even if they live in cities that refuse to provide legal medical options for patients.
Asked about the ruling longtime cannabis attorney Joe Rogoway said, “This ruling preserves the issue of licensed delivery businesses delivering into purportedly prohibited jurisdictions for another day. All that has changed is that a Fresno County Superior Court Judge dismissed the Cities’ suit for ripeness through an appealable, non-citable, trial court order which has no legal authority in any other matter.”
Regarding next steps Rogoway said “Perhaps there will be a political resolution to this issue. Otherwise, this issue will likely arise again, but in the context of an enforcement action involving a legal delivery business delivering legal cannabis into a local jurisdiction which has made the misguided policy choice to continue prohibition. The war on cannabis prohibition continues through unfortunate legal skirmishes such as these. We will all have to wait to see how this issue evolves.”
Many patients continue to express outrage with the lack of legal retail access in the state since the legislature approved a comprehensive medical cannabis package known as the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act (MCRSA) in 2015, which was replaced in 2017 with MAUCRSA, legislating combining MCRSA with the Prop 64 adult-use model approved by voters in 2016. Five years later there are still very few legal retailers for patients to access, with roughly two-thirds of California local governments maintaining bans on legal retail.
The lack of local government retail licensing means that most patients must rely on unlicensed retailers for access, who are selling products that have not gone through state-mandated testing requirements to ensure product safety. This was not the intent of MCRSA, and five years since its enactment patients continue to ask our state legislature and our local governments for the safe and legal access that was promised under the landmark legislation.
“The court got it right in throwing out the legal challenge brought by these 25 local governments” says Americans for Safe Access Board Member Don Duncan. “Cities and counties are allowed to ban commercial cannabis businesses from locating within their borders, but restricting licensed retailers from delivering medicine to legal patients from outside the jurisdiction defies the intent of voters and the legislature.”
“Millions of Californians use cannabis to treat serious medical conditions, both with and without a doctor’s recommendation. Stopping these patients from accessing their medicine by banning delivery from legal business is harmful and wrong.”
While it is appropriate for local governments to make decisions about the configuration of their communities, it is completely inappropriate and discriminatory to use these powers to deny patients access to medicine that they need to treat their health conditions. America for Safe Access urges California state lawmakers to collaborate with us, patients and doctors, local governments in their districts and local government associations like the League of California Cities and California State Association of Counties to organize strategies to close the patient access gap and ensure that no patient is left behind.