San Diego

State Supreme Court Rules Against San Diego in Dispensary Lawsuit

A California State Supreme Court ruling in a case against the City of San Diego and how it passed the zoning ordinance for marijuana dispensaries could have an impact across the state, according to environmental law experts.

The State Supreme Court ruled that San Diego violated the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) when the city enacted the zoning ordinance for marijuana dispensaries.

CEQA requires state and local agencies to identify the significant environmental impacts of their actions and to avoid or mitigate those impacts, if feasible.

Environmental Lawyer Everett DeLano said this ruling says cities and counties must consider environmental impacts when drafting ordinances like the one for zoning of medical marijuana dispensaries.

“Whether that's traffic, whether, that's air quality, whether that's greenhouse gas and missions, whatever the things that might result as a result of that additional development, those are things that cities now need to consider before they go ahead and adopt these kind of ordinances,” DeLano said.

The city had argued, in the case brought by the Union of Medical Marijuana Patients, the adoption of the ordinance does not have the potential for resulting in either a direct physical change in the environment, or reasonably foreseeable indirect physical change in the environment. Future projects subject to the ordinance will require a discretionary permit and CEQA review and will be analyzed at the appropriate time in accordance with CEQA.

Environmental attorneys say the ruling is being seen as a reprimand to the city of San Diego for trying to create ordinances without considering how that ordinance would impact the environment.

“It definitely will have impacts across all of California because there are various cities throughout the state that are considering ordinances and all of them have potential for some sort of impact, so the question is which of those should be analyzed?” DeLano said.

NBC 7 has learned the ruling is already being sited in briefs for appeals of another case in Englewood, California for residents who sued over the plan to build a NBA basketball arena.

Hilary Nemchik, spokesperson for the Office of the San Diego City Attorney, told NBC 7 the office will study the court opinion and determine the potential impacts on city operations.

The court did not say what level of environmental review the ordinance, or others like them, should trigger. How the ruling could impact marijuana dispensaries is now in the hands of a San Diego judge.

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