OCTOBER 26, 2015: Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer overturned a ban against Marin county dispensary Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana (MAMM), previously the oldest operating medical dispensary in the country before being shuttered by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 2011.
In focusing on an amendment to the federal spending bill this year, stating that the U.S. Department of Justice cannot use federal funds to subvert the will of states to regulate medical marijuana, Judge Breyer ruled, “As long as Congress precludes the Dept. of Justice from expending funds in the manner proscribed by [the appropriations act], the permanent injunction will only be enforced against MAMM insofar as that organization is in violation of California ‘State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.’ ”
Breyer wrote that Californians’ access to medical marijuana had been “substantively impeded by the closing of dispensaries, and the closing of MAMM in particular.”
Attorneys for medical marijuana dispensaries will undoubtedly cite this decision as controlling precedent in other cases, such as the U.S. Department of Justice’s civil forfeiture case currently pending against Haborside Health Center in Oakland.
Perhaps anticipating a federal ruling on this issue, the Marin County board of supervisors has been preparing a new plan which would allow for four medical marijuana dispensaries in unincorporated areas of the County.
This new ordinance would permit up to two dispensaries along the Highway 101 corridor and another two in central and West Marin. Like Berkeley’s dispensary ordinance, the new plan in Marin County would prohibit operating a dispensary within 800 feet of a school, park, or playground.
The plan establishes a competitive licensing process controlled by the county administrator, allows but does not regulate delivery to patients, limits the amount of marijuana that can be kept on the premises or sold, bans on-site consumption and outlaws signs containing logos or product information. It imposes extensive requirements for operations including on-site security personnel, camera surveillance, alarm and electronic “buzz-in” entry systems, lighting, floor plan configuration, odor control and site management including minimum staffing.
Marin’s ordinance does not contain any requirements for the testing of medical cannabis for potency or labeling of the products sold in dispensaries. However, the recently passed state law, the Medical Marijuana Regulation and Safety Act, does.
Support for the proposed ordinance in Marin County, with arguably California’s largest population of medical marijuana users, has been mixed with some citizens voicing concern that permitting dispensaries in the County will lead to an increased marijuana use by children.
Marin County supervisors will review the ordinance again in November before taking a final vote in December.
Special thanks to Nicholas Kam, Esq., for contributing this piece.