State Supreme Court to Hear Landmark Long Beach Medpot Case

11:39pm | A decision wasn't expected for at least another week, but on Wednesday the California Supreme Court indicated its intent to review four medical-marijuana cases, including the Pack decision, which preempted most of the City of Long Beach's medpot ordinance.

The decision came less than 24 hours after the Long Beach City Council voted to postpone action on a proposed ban on medpot collectives until February 14, when the full council is slated to be present.

"These cases were very problematic for patients and their ability to safely and legally access a medication that works for them," said Joe Elford, chief counsel of Americans for Safe Access, a leading medpot advocacy group. "We're very pleased that local governments will now be without the means to deny access to medical marijuana for patients in their communities, at least until or unless the Supreme Court has ruled otherwise."

While the Pack decision was a legal victory for medpot patients Ryan Pack and Anthony Gayle -- who filed their suit in response to Long Beach's permitting process, arguing that the Compassionate Use Act only decriminalizes the medicinal use of marijuana, while the City's ordinance violates federal law by effectively legalizing conduct prohibited by the Controlled Substances Act -- pro-medpot organizations such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the Drug Policy Alliance were among the parties who filed the December 12 request that the Court review the case. 

In a press release issued Wednesday, Americans for Safe Access says the Supreme Court review means the Pack decision -- along with City of Riverside v. Inland Empire Patient's Health and Wellness Ctr., a decision holding that while marijuana distribution is not in fact preempted by federal law, "localities could legally ban distribution altogether" -- are, for the moment, "out of play, [meaning that] local governments will now have less cover with which to implement or continue such bans" -- an apparent shot across the bow of the City of Long Beach.

"The Pack decision is a dead letter and can no longer be used to defy the implementation of state law," Elford said.

But as reported by Jonathan Van Dyke on Gazettes.com, City Attorney Robert Shannon says the Court denied a petition filed by Matthew Pappas, attorney for the plaintiffs in the Pack case, for "emergency application for a temporary order prohibiting enactment and/or enforcement of a collective ban." 

Noting that "it will likely be at least a couple of years before the Supreme Court rules on the cases," Americans for Safe Access urges "local governments to adopt regulatory ordinances that establish the means by which California's hundreds of thousands of patients can obtain a medicine that is legal under state law."

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