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California Battle Brewing Over Local Control Of Medical Cannabis Delivery Accessibility

The medical cannabis industry in California has been rapidly growing ever since the legalization of medical cannabis in 1996. With the passage of Proposition 64 in 2016, which legalized recreational use for adults over the age of 21, the state has seen a surge in demand for both medical and recreational cannabis products.

However, despite its legality at the state level, there has been ongoing debate and pushback regarding the regulation of cannabis businesses at the local level. One of the most contentious issues surrounding this topic is the control that local jurisdictions have over medical cannabis delivery.

In August of last year, Senate Bill 1186 was passed, which aimed to provide more accessibility for medical cannabis patients by allowing deliveries to be made anywhere in the state, even in areas with local bans on cannabis businesses. This sparked a battle for control between state and local governments, leading to a range of reactions and approaches from different cities in California.

SB 1186

SB-1186 known as the Medicinal Cannabis Patients’ Right of Access Act states ” This bill would enact the Medicinal Cannabis Patients’ Right of Access Act, which, on and after January 1, 2024, would prohibit a local jurisdiction from adopting or enforcing any regulation that prohibits the retail sale by delivery within the local jurisdiction of medicinal cannabis to medicinal cannabis patients or their primary caregivers by medicinal cannabis businesses, as defined, or that has the effect of prohibiting the retail sale by delivery within the local jurisdiction of medicinal cannabis to medicinal cannabis patients or their primary caregivers in a timely and readily accessible manner and in types and quantities that are sufficient to meet demand from medicinal cannabis patients within the local jurisdiction, as specified. The bill, on and after January 1, 2024, would provide that the act may be enforced by an action for writ of mandate brought by a medicinal cannabis patient or their primary caregiver, a medicinal cannabis business, the Attorney General, or any other party otherwise authorized by law.”

Meaning that every California city and county must allow medical cannabis deliveries for medicinal patients to deliver in their jurisdictions, and they could face possible suit from a medical patient or medical provider if they don’t according to an article published by Cannabis Business Times. Lauren Mendelsohn, a senior associate attorney at the Sonoma County, Calif.-based Law Offices of Omar Figueroa said to Cannabis Business Times that “It is considered landmark legislation because it goes farther than most other legislation in terms of actually guaranteeing access to medical cannabis delivery to Californians who need it,”

It should be noted that cities and counties are not required to allow these companies to have storefronts, only that they must allow delivery service to medical patients.

Cities Trying To Work Around SB 1186

While the passing of SB 1186 may seem like a victory for medical cannabis patients in California, not all cities and counties are on board with the new law. Some cities, such as San Marcos and Brentwood, have taken a different approach and have interpreted SB 1186 differently.

As a result, they do not plan on allowing medical cannabis delivery within their jurisdictions.

San Marcos, a city in northern San Diego County, has adopted an ordinance that allows for medical cannabis deliveries from nearby jurisdictions but does not permit any establishments within its boundaries.

The Coast News Group reported “Deputy City Attorney Jacqueline Paterno said due to the city’s proximity to Vista, where there are eight delivery-only cannabis establishments, residents would not be prohibited from accessing delivery.”

“In remote jurisdictions, it would be necessary to allow establishments because there’s no other business nearby that could serve the population,” Paterno said. “There’s plenty of establishments that can deliver nearby into San Marcos that are nearby, so we don’t have that issue of having to allow actual delivery-only establishments to open or be permitted in San Marcos.”

Similarly, the city of Brentwood like San Marcos, Brentwood’s proposed changes to municipal code would only allow for medical cannabis deliveries to come into the city via outside jurisdictions reports Cannabis Business Times.

These cities are taking a stand against the state law and choosing to maintain local control over medical cannabis access within their jurisdictions.

However, their decisions may have consequences in the future while possible legal action.

Per Cannabis Business Times and attorney Lauren Mendelsohn “These are private lawsuits that can be brought by a firm such as myself or other law firms, and it’s a mandamus action that would be brought to essentially force the jurisdiction to comply,” she said. “Attorneys’ fees could be awarded in a matter like this.”

Cities Following SB 1186

On the other hand, there are cities that have chosen to follow SB 1186 and adopt new ordinances to comply with the state law. For example, the city of Visalia has recently passed an ordinance allowing city staff to begin drafting the zoning ordinance updates and hire a consultant to assist in cannabis regulation revisions and the creation of a potential tax measure for cannabis sales

“I wish the state wasn’t forcing us to do this, but here we are, so I’ll be fully supportive of everything that we’re doing tonight,” Mayor Brian Poochigian said per Sun Gazette

Similarly, Beverly Hills has also adopted a new ordinance that allows for medical cannabis delivery services in the city.

Since city governments still have discretion to regulate those businesses, according to SB 1186 the City planning commission of Beverly Hills examined and recommended suggested rules at a August meeting.

Draft regulations presented to the commission provide that medical marijuana delivery companies would only be allowed in the Business Triangle. They would not be allowed on the first floor of buildings or within 600 feet of schools, parks, libraries and other sensitive locations.

Businesses would also be prohibited from displaying logos outside of their offices or on any of their vehicles that make it obvious that they are keeping large quantities of marijuana. The purpose of that rule is to avoid attracting potential criminals who might try to target medical marijuana stores in the city, Beverly Hills Municipal Affairs Program Manager Cindy Owens told commissioners, per the Beverly Hills Courier.

These cities may have been influenced by the pressure from state legislation and the desire to regulate cannabis businesses within their boundaries.

By complying with SB 1186, these cities are ensuring that medical cannabis patients have access to their medication without having to travel outside of their city or county.

There is one city that stands out as an exception when it comes to SB 1186 – Healdsburg. This small town in Sonoma County has taken advantage of the new law to revise its regulations and allow for two adult use dispensaries the first of its kind in the city per The Press Democrat.

This decision not only benefits medical cannabis patients but also has the potential to greatly impact Healdsburg’s local economy and the cannabis industry as a whole. By opening up opportunities for various types of cannabis businesses, Healdsburg is creating jobs and boosting its local economy.

Moreover, this progressive move sets an example for other cities to follow and shows that embracing the cannabis industry can have positive results.

While SB 1186 has been passed to guarantee access to medical cannabis delivery in California starting January 1st, 2024, it remains to be seen how some cities and counties will comply with the new law. Some have already embraced it and are allowing deliveries and even considering storefronts within their boundaries.

However, there are also those who are trying to work around SB 1186 and only allowing deliveries from outside their jurisdictions, which could potentially lead to legal battles.

In the end, it is important to remember that medical cannabis patients should have access to their medication regardless of where they live. Hopefully, with time, more cities and counties will see the benefits of embracing the cannabis industry and choose to comply with SB 1186 to ensure accessibility for all.

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