Every CEQA analysis begins with the threshold question of whether the activity is a “project” as defined by Public Resources Code section 21065 and 21080. In Union of Medical Marijuana Patients, Inc. v. City of San Diego, the California Supreme Court held that regardless of the nature of a project, CEQA applies if it
On January 11, the California Supreme Court granted review of the Fourth Appellate District’s decision in Union of Medical Marijuana Patients, Inc. v. City of San Diego (2016) 4 Cal.App.5th 103. The two issues to be decided by the Court are as follows:
- Is the enactment of a zoning ordinance categorically a “project” within the meaning of CEQA?
- Is the enactment of a zoning ordinance allowing the operation of medical marijuana cooperatives in certain areas the type of activity that may cause a reasonably foreseeable indirect physical change to the environment?
In its October 14 decision in Union of Medical Marijuana Patients, Inc. v. City of San Diego, the Fourth Appellate District weighed in for the second time this year on whether a city ordinance regulating medical marijuana dispensaries is subject to CEQA review. As in the first case, which was brought by the same petitioner (Union of Medical Marijuana Patients, Inc. v. City of Upland, decided on March 25), the appeals court held that the ordinance was not a “project” for purposes of CEQA.
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.
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.”