In a unanimous decision, the California high court has ruled that local governments have the power to ban medical marijuana dispensaries. The decision upholds bans in about 200 California cities. But in a state with a robust pot economy, lawmakers still debate if and how to regulate the drug. We’ll discuss the ruling and what this means for the marijuana market, its dispensaries and its consumers.

Peter Hecht, reporter for the Sacramento Bee and author of the forthcoming book "Weed Land"
Don Duncan, California director of Americans for Safe Access
Jeffrey Dunn, Partner, Best Best and Kreiger LLP who represented the City of Riverside in this case
Scott McGregor, former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California during the George W. Bush administration.

  • Cassidy

    I’d like to see cities banning businesses that really and truly do harm, like banks that engage in predatory lending; churches, synagogues and mosques that brainwash people; liquor stores; and checking cashing stores. All of these feed on and thrive because of human suffering, and often worsen it. Enough of this nonsense about banning or restricting pot. I have always been a militant anti-tobacco advocate, but when I’m walking down the street in San Francisco and I smell pot smoke, I really don’t mind it as the smell is not offensive.

    • thucy

      I hate the smell of pot, but who cares? It’s a trifling issue compared to the TRILLION dollars plus (that’s T, not B) that the US has spent on its racist drug war with disastrous effects on our own and other countries.
      So bring on the noxious pot fumes; it’s the corrupt narcotics divisions that should be banned.

    • Slappy

      I’ve personally never understood this logic as well; there are so many businesses praying on uneducated/uninformed individuals on a daily basis, and yet our priorities lie with marijuana?

      I think this is what happens when not enough people get involved with their state officials.

      • thucy

        Case in point:
        Jaycee Dugard and other abducted girls could have been rescued years earlier, but incompetent police were focused on “narcotics”. David Simon and Eugene Jarecki have made the argument that the drug war has seriously degraded detective work.

  • Monsieur Oblong

    Dispensary bans are just NIMBYism. Here in San Mateo County, dispensaries are effectively banned. I’ve never been inside of one in my life, in fact. How it works here is you must use a delivery service, which on the one hand is convenient, but on the other hand requires that you have a couple of hours to sit around and wait for a delivery person. It’s a silly system. The trade still happens, but no doubt carries a small risk to delivery people (as they carry large amounts of marijuana and cash). It won’t be long before criminals catch on and start following drivers and robbing them.

    Just let the storefronts be. It’s not hurting anyone, and banning storefronts does nothing to discourage usage.

  • Chris OConnell

    It is a little disappointing but as a unanimous ruling among a pretty diverse court I trust that it rests on solid legal ground. I am just glad that the system as I experience it in the Bay Area is very civilized, and edifying and it makes me not feel like a criminal. Which I am not. Just a reprobate (in the eyes of God).

  • Chemist150

    With the argument that I just heard and given that marijuana was legalized as a medicine, the courts would be OK with counties and cities banning dispensaries (pharmacies) for distributing antibiotics, pain medicine, medical devices, etc… All have subsets which are illegal to possess without prescriptions.

    Can counties ban pharmacies?

  • Sam Badger

    I makes sense that banning pot dispensaries is within the legal right of a community, but why is it a good idea? People who have a pharmaceutical need to buy marijuana have good cause to want easy access, and everyday Marijuana smokers have as much a right to enjoy their favorite substance in peace as much as alcohol drinkers, tea drinkers, coffee drinkers and tobacco smokers. It’s peculiar that folks are fine with people getting drunk at bars in their town but not smoking marijuana – perhaps in part this is a deeply rooted fear in our society.

  • kim shepard

    I love how people pretend to forget that pot is still Federally illegal, and having big dispensaries, basically thumbing their nose at them, isn’t really something that those Feds love. Having lived in pot country for over 20 years, I’ve seen it all. Big busts little busts, zip ties, gorilla grows, in your face grows, all of it. At one time indoor was crap, outdoor was king, then it flipped, and now it seems to have balanced. All these conversations really don’t amount to much if the feds want to shut you down, 215 be damned. Until the Feds get their heads out of the dark about pot, and just legalize it, this conversation will continue to just spin in circles, and go no where productive.

  • Selostaja

    I would guess that many of the users of pot are not politically active. I find it interesting that guns that are involved in many killings and violence are so strongly supported politically but pot users are usually passive and nonviolent. If they could muster the ambition to organize, they should form a National Marijuana Assn, like the NRA.

    • Chris OConnell

      It is a good observation. But they created NORML (Nat’l Org for Reform of Marijuana Laws) already so the organization is there. It is a complex question. I suspect the fact that guns have ALWAYS been legal and even revered (they helped us conquer the continent), and marijuana has always been illegal and demonized is a bigger factor than political lethargy.

      • Selostaja

        I forgot about NORML, That’s an indication of the lack of effort in getting the word out. They should be drumming up support at the counters of head shops, dispensaries and boutiques encouraging voter registration and posting flyers.

  • Chris OConnell

    It is certainly true that it is very easy to get a prescription and you could say there is an “abuse” of the system. But is such abuse really a negative thing? These are people that want marijuana and are going to get it. Now they can do it safely, normally and at a lower cost to boot. It’s really a wonderful experience in light of the prohibitionist past. So I see the “abuse” of the medical marijuana system as something very positive for society as a whole.

  • Sam Badger

    People in the program who are supportive of banning dispensaries talk about the “criminal element” and so on. Aside from scaremongering based on people’s stereotypes, this is an utterly ridiculous argument. Where do the criminals come from? Were they created by the dispensary? Would the criminals stop being criminals if you removed the dispensary? 7-11s are “high crime areas” in that they are constantly getting robbed – but if we get rid of 7-11s, does that mean that crime goes away or goes somewhere else? It’s utterly absurd.

  • 1PeterDuMont2STARALLIANCE8

    “The crying need for regulation.” Allow me to weigh in: It seems to me the most fundamental need here starts at the individual level: for everyone who uses marijuana to acknowledge clearly that marijuana IS indeed strongly psychoactive; that its effects DO distort normal perception and functionality; and that effects typically last a full EIGHT hours.

    A freedom to use marijuana, therefore, should always be accompanied with the responsibility NOT to deny these realities and try to drive a car, work and interact “normally,” take care of children, etc..

    As in many areas, the dishonesty and hypocrisy of denial; the inappropriate desire to have it both ways; is enormously destructive to the fabric of social wholeness.

    • thucy

      “As in many areas, the dishonesty and hypocrisy of denial; the inappropriate desire to have it both ways; is enormously destructive to the fabric of social wholeness.”

      As a non-drinking, non-drug-using (not even prescription) former emergency room worker, I can attest to the reality that alcohol, which is legal and regulated, is far more destructive than cannabis, which is not. So the “dishonesty and hypocrisy” lies more in your argument, and this pointless drug war, than in the behavior of cannabis users.

      • Chris OConnell

        Well said. I wanted to reply to the statement here which reminded me of Reefer Madness but I would have been too impolite so I refrained.

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