RIVERSIDE – Riverside County officials today applauded a state appellate court ruling upholding the county’s right to order that two marijuana dispensaries immediately shut down operations.
The 4th District Court of Appeal in Riverside affirmed the county’s power to outlaw storefront cannabis outlets in unincorporated communities.
The case stemmed from a county lawsuit seeking to shutter Nature’s Relief Group just outside Murrieta and MOSA Collective Inc. in Thousand Palms.
In May, Superior Court Judge John Vineyard denied the county’s request for a preliminary injunction compelling the dispensaries to close, saying the petition lacked merit. The county immediately appealed, resulting in a July hearing before the appellate court, which ultimately reversed Vineyard.
Last November, the same appellate justices upheld the city of Riverside’s blanket ban on cannabis dispensaries, bolstering the county’s efforts to shutter more than 30 such storefront operations then in business.
The county Executive Office released a statement saying the court’s most recent decision, handed down Tuesday, ”sends a clear message to businesses within the court’s jurisdiction — Riverside, San Bernardino and Inyo counties – – that local governments can ban dispensaries.”
Under a 2006 zoning ordinance, storefront marijuana dispensaries are prohibited from operating in unincorporated areas of the county. As with most places throughout the state, the operations sprang up in response to voter- approved Proposition 215, also known as the California Compassionate Use Act of 1996, which paved the way to legal medical marijuana distribution.
According to county officials, dispensaries bear the legal burden of proving they qualify to conduct business under the CCUA or the Medical Marijuana Program Act. County attorneys argue that storefront variety cannabis dispensaries do not comply with state law because all most of them require of ”members” is a signature, not a clinical diagnosis proving a genuine medical need for marijuana to alleviate pain or other problems.
Department of Code Enforcement officers will be checking to verify that the two dispensaries against which the injunction lawsuit was filed close down in the coming weeks, county officials said. Fines and other penalties could be imposed if they do not.
Meantime, the county is pressing ahead with an appeal of a decision last month by Superior Court Judge Ronald Taylor, who ruled that the county’s ordinance against storefront dispensaries was pre-empted by state law.
In that case, the county is suing to close 16 cannabis distribution outlets spread throughout the county.