Medical marijuana advocates in Kern County recently obtained victories in the Fifth Appellate District Court of Appeal on two fronts, invalidating one ordinance that would ban dispensaries and another that would significantly restrict their operations.
Appellate Court Upholds Local Restrictions on Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Against CEQA Challenge
Local regulation of the medical marijuana industry has become a hot-button area of controversy. New ordinances are routinely being proposed and adopted – and then challenged in court. In a March 25 opinion filed in Union of Medical Marijuana Patients, Inc. v. City of Upland, the Fourth Appellate District weighed in on one such local dispute, holding that a city ordinance prohibiting mobile marijuana dispensaries is not a “project” subject to CEQA review, but is merely a restatement of existing law that will not cause a physical change in the environment.
In 2007, the City of Upland adopted a municipal ordinance stating that “[n]o medical marijuana dispensary . . . shall be permitted in any zone within the city,” and defining a dispensary as including any “fixed or mobile” facility or location. The City prepared and adopted a negative declaration for this ordinance, which was not challenged. In 2013, the City adopted another ordinance, which added a new chapter to the municipal code expressly stating that mobile dispensaries “are prohibited” in the City. The 2013 ordinance contained recitals asserting that such facilities were associated with criminal activity and highly likely to “flourish in the City without the adoption of this Ordinance.”…