California Supreme Court’s medical marijuana ruling could trigger ‘green rush’

By Stephen C. Webster
Wednesday, February 6, 2013 11:48 EDT
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Marijuana purveyors at Venice Beach. Photo: littleny / Shutterstock.com.
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Right now nearly 200 cities and counties in California ban medical marijuana dispensaries, but all those markets could be set to open later this year thanks to a case the California Supreme Court began hearing on Tuesday.

When lawmakers crafted the medical marijuana provision, they did not specifically say whether towns and counties may ban shops from selling marijuana, but it did give them broad authority to regulate sales.

The difference between regulation and prohibition is precisely what the state’s supreme court is weighing right now, and if justices decide the difference is irreconcilable with the law and dispensaries must be allowed, hundreds of new pot shops could soon be springing up across the state.

Deliberations over a lawsuit brought by the dispensary’s owners, Lanny Swerdlow and William Sump, went directly at that point on Tuesday, Reuters noted, with one justice pointing out, “The legislature knows how to say, ‘Thou shall not ban dispensaries.’ They didn’t say that.”

At least one city, Oakland, has no problem with this: they collected over $1 million from the world’s largest medical marijuana dispensary in 2011 and expect yet more in 2012. The city has even sued the federal government, taking the side of the Harborside Health Center’s right to exist under state law.

The case should be decided in May.

Photo: littleny / Shutterstock.com.

Correction: A prior version of this story incorrectly stated that J. David Nick owns the dispensary. He is the dispensary’s attorney.

Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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