Once the people of a state have voted to allow cannabis (be it medical or recreational), we find it galling when a city council takes it upon itself to enact its own ban. We have fought against a number of city bans and we recently filed a lawsuit Wenatchee, Washington, that could decide whether city bannings are legal, once and for all. For more on this lawsuit and its potential for nationwide implications, check out the following:
- We’ve Sued Wenatchee Over Its Cannabis Ban Because The Voters Should Decide (Canna Law Blog)
- With Marijuana Legalized, a City in Washington State Says, ‘Not So Fast’ (New York Times)
- The First Battle (The Inlander)
- Lawsuit Questions Power of Federal Law in States that Legalize Marijuana Use (Mint Press)
- Washington City Sued Over Its Ban on Marijuana Businesses (Al Jazeera)
- Marijuana Businessman Sues Wenatchee for Right to Open Retail Store (NPR Interview)
- Wenatchee Lawsuit Could Make or Break State’s Pot Law (Seattle Times)
City and county cannabis bans are a creeping prohibition that stifles the express will of the people and they themselves should be banned.
But some cities prefer banning marijuana surreptitiously through zoning, rather than with an express ban. San Jose, California, just enacted such an indirect ban by enacting zoning regulations that are so burdensome as to effectively result in a near-ban on marijuana in that major city. San Jose’s city council, by a 7-3 margin, voted to restrict medical marijuana dispensaries to industrial areas that amount to less than one percent of the city. These new regulations will force most marijuana dispensaries in San Jose to close down or move their locations.
All this despite the fact that a recent poll commissioned by the City of San Jose found that only 16 percent of the city’s voters favor an outright ban. San Jose’s near total ban on cannabis retail is most definitely not what its voters want.
Despite initially being in the forefront of marijuana liberalization, California’s cannabis regulations are today a complete mess, as we somewhat more charitably noted in one of our previous posts, California, Get Your Cannabis Act Together:
Since California does NOT have a state marijuana licensing system, our cannabis attorneys interpret the new banking rules as not allowing banks to conduct business with cannabis companies based in California. We just don’t see how state authorities in California can verify that a marijuana-related business has been duly licensed by the state when the state does not provide any such licensing nor how banks can review the license applications of marijuana-related businesses that obtained a state license when there is no such license.
California right now has pending a bill, AB 604, that would establish a licensing system for medical marijuana in California, but until that or something along those lines becomes law in California, its hodgepodge localized marijuana system is going to continue preventing California from being in the forefront of states making life easier for marijuana businesses.
California’s cannabis regime (which is hardly a regime at all) has devolved so much power to its cities and counties that it has effectively stripped its own citizens from having much of a voice in either the state as a whole or even in their own cities. Both for reasons of democracy and for reasons of marijuana liberalization, we have a big problem with this.
But the even bigger problem is that California’s pell-mell marijuana regime impelled the California Supreme Court to rule that California cities and counties are free to enact their own marijuana bans, whether the people like it or not. So what this means is that if you do not like California’s existing laws (really lack of laws) on marijuana (and we don’t — and this is especially true of our three lawyers who are licensed in California) you should be directing your efforts to working to getting “a rock-solid legalization measure in place.” What is happening in San Jose is just yet another reason for California voters to move as quickly as they can to legalize recreational marijuana statewide.