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What The State Court Ruling On Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Means To San Diego

Evening Edition

Aired 5/7/13 on KPBS Midday Edition.

GUEST

Alex Kreit, former chair of the city's Medical Marijuana Task Force and professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law

Transcript

Sign at a medical marijuana dispensary in Santa Monica, CA.
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Above: Sign at a medical marijuana dispensary in Santa Monica, CA.

The issue of access to medical marijuana got even more complicated yesterday with a ruling from the California Supreme Court. The court found that cities and counties can use their zoning powers to ban the establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries within their borders.

The ruling was in response to a law banning medical marijuana shops in the city of Riverside but it comes on the heels of an effort here in San Diego to develop zoning regulations allowing dispensaries to legally set up shop.

Where does the state courts ruling put San Diego in the ongoing controversy?

San Diego City Attorney Jan Goldsmith says the ruling demonstrates that his office's interpretation of the medical marijuana law is correct.

At a news conference held Monday he said, "If you've heard the advocates, they accuse the city of violating the law and 'we're going to sue you,' and civil rights and all that and that now goes away, and so I think what it means is, the city, the city council and the mayor can make their policy decisions without fear or concern of the city getting sued or retribution."

Alex Kreit, former chair of the City of San Diego's Medical Marijuana Task Force and a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law said the ruling is a small set back for medical marijuana advocates, but he said most localities that want to have a ban already do.

Kreit said, "This issue has been up in front of the state supreme court a ridiculous number of times. When you have this amount of court activity around an issue it points to a problem with state law"

He said, Assembly Bill 473, which passed the state Assembly's Public Safety Committee in April, would provide clarity to state law if passed.

AB 473 is opposed by the California District Attorneys Association and California Police Chiefs Association and other groups.

The federal government continues to crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries in San Diego. We contacted U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy for an interview but her office declined.

On April 24, just one day after Mayor Bob Filner presented his proposed medical marijuana ordinance to the city council, Drug Enforcement Administration agents shut down one of the last remaining medical marijuana dispensaries in San Diego, the One on One Patient Association, run by Ken Cole.

A DEA Task Force spokesman called the dispensary a "marijuana club" that worked for profit not for compassion.

Goldsmith said "there are federal decisions, which we believe are clear, that says that federal criminal law on marijuana preempt state law. What does that mean? Even if you allow a dispensary, whether it be in an industrial, retail commercial, they can still get prosecuted under federal law because the possession, distribution, transportation of marijuana is a crime under federal law."

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