Marijuana dispensary ruling does little to clarify issue in Glendale

CITY HALL — Glendale city attorneys on Thursday said the decision by a state appellate court to send a challenge to Anaheim’s ban on marijuana dispensaries back to a lower court did little to clear legal confusion swirling around the issue.

Qualified Patients Assn., a medical marijuana dispensary, sued in 2007 to overturn the Orange County city’s ban. The 4th District Court of Appeal in Santa Ana on Wednesday had been expected to rule on the legality of the ordinance, thereby clarifying the legal boundaries for cities across the state.

“This really was the case we were all waiting for and hoping to get a better guide from,” said Glendale City Atty. Scott Howard.

Glendale officials have held off on considering potential regulations of the shops in light of the complicated legal landscape.

The City Council this week extended a temporary moratorium on pot dispensaries, holding off on any permanent action as city attorneys waited for the appellate court’s decision.

Now, city attorneys say it is unlikely they will get that clarity when the moratorium expires in a year.

“When it comes close to that one year, we are going to have to make a decision at that time as to whether or not we have the ability to actually ban or tightly regulate,” Howard said, who added he is confident the temporary ban is legally justified.

But in November, voters could approve a measure that would legalize the sale of marijuana.

In issuing its decision, the three-judge panel contended it was “not the occasion” to rule on the legality of Anaheim’s ban and remanded the case back to Orange County Superior Court.

The panel rejected the lower court’s use of federal law in dismissing the challenge to the Anaheim law.

Anaheim officials have said city's attorneys will confer with the City Council to consider their next step, which could include asking the state Supreme Court to review the case.

Medical marijuana proponents also expressed frustration with the legal uncertainty.

“While we understand the difficult nature of deciding this issue, the court's ruling delays a decision that will affect thousands of patients who remain without access to their medication because of hostile jurisdictions,” Joe Elford, chief counsel with medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access, said in a statement.

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