Pot Decision Could Lead to Dispensary Bans

Cities throughout the state may start outlawing medical marijuana dispensaries

By Sharon Bernstein
|  Thursday, Oct 13, 2011  |  Updated 10:17 AM PDT
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Federal officials will announce <a title=Calif. pot dispensary crackdown and tougher regulations." />

Federal officials will announce Calif. pot dispensary crackdown and tougher regulations.

Cities throughout the state are expected to start outlawing medical marijuana dispensaries in the wake of a court decision that overturns a key effort to regulate them.

The ruling by a panel of judges on California's 2nd District appellate court this week said cities could restrict marijuana dispensaries, but they can't do anything that would appear to give them approval or legitimacy.

The ruling could have wide repercussions in the state, said Jane Usher, an assistant City Attorney in Los Angeles who works on issues of cannabis dispensaries.

Small cities, she predicted, would simply ban dispensaries outright, in order to avoid violating federal law. Others would try to find more modest ways to regulate them, such as limiting the hours that they could remain open, or banning them from certain neighborhoods.

Already, on Wednesday, the Associated Press reported renewed efforts by federal prosecutors to shut down some dispensaries in the state.

"Medical marijuana is under assault by the federal government," said Joe Elford, chief counsel for the advocacy group Americans for Safe Access. He confirmed that several dispensaries around the state had received letters Wednesday and Thursday from federal prosecutors, ordering them to close down.

Both issues - regulating the dispensaries and allowing them to stay open at all - grow out of a conflict between state and federal laws. Even though California law allows marijuana to be used for medical purposes, federal law does not.

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