A judge has ordered Los Angeles not to enforce key sections of its controversial medical marijuana ordinance, issuing a preliminary injunction that once again leaves the city with limited ability to control dispensaries and raises the possibility that new ones could open.
The decision comes almost six months after the City Council adopted the law, which opponents said was riddled with flaws. Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Anthony J. Mohr, in a decision released Friday, agreed with most of the criticisms raised by the dispensaries.
In his ruling, Mohr acknowledged "there is a good chance that a large number of collectives could open once this injunction takes effect."
Mohr enjoined a crucial provision of the ordinance that outlaws all dispensaries except those that registered with the city in 2007 after the City Council adopted a moratorium on new stores. He concluded it is invalid because the moratorium was improperly extended and therefore had expired before the registration deadline for dispensaries.
One of the most closely watched medical marijuana court cases in California, which centers on whether cities and counties have the power to ban dispensaries, appears headed back to trial after the state Supreme Court declined to review a recent appellate court decision.
Qualified Patients Assn. sued Anaheim in 2007, arguing that the state’s medical marijuana laws preclude a ban on dispensaries. The case was appealed before a trial, and the 4th District Court of Appeal in Santa Ana declined to rule on the issue in August, returning it to the lower court.
Last week, the state’s highest court decided not to review that decision, and on Monday the appellate court closed the case. The city could still ask the U.S. Supreme Court to take it up.
“Right now, it doesn’t look like we are going to do that,” said Moses W. Johnson IV, an assistant Anaheim city attorney. “It’s even a bigger uphill battle to get the U.S. Supreme Court interested.”
Johnson said he expects a trial would be quick and the losing side would appeal.
Anthony Curiale, the attorney for Qualified Patients Assn., was traveling and could not be reached.
The state Supreme Court’s decision left standing a ruling by the appeals court that federal law does not preempt the state’s medical marijuana laws. Anaheim had argued that dispensaries are illegal under the Controlled Substances Act, and Orange County Superior Court Judge David R. Chaffee had sided with the city. Chaffee will probably preside over the trial.
“We’re obviously quite happy to see the California Supreme Court deny the review,” said Joe Elford, chief counsel for Americans for Safe Access, a national organization that advocates for medical marijuana programs. “You’ve got another published opinion saying federal law does not preempt state law, and this one did so very forcefully.”
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