RIVERSIDE, CA — Shuttered medical marijuana dispensaries in Riverside. CA who have been attempting to continue to provide medicine to patients via delivery service must cease under a new city-wide ban on mobile marijuana dispensaries and medical marijuana delivery services.
The city of Riverside recently won a court case in which the California Supreme Court ruled that local municipalities can ban medical marijuana dispensaries, and has since shuttered nearly every dispensary in the city.
Now, Riverside officials are taking the dispensary ban one step further by banning all medical marijuana delivery services, including mobile medical marijuana dispensaries.
Attorney James DeAguilera, who represents about 15 marijuana collectives that operate in Riverside, doesn’t believe the City Council can ban delivery services, let alone enforce the ordinance.
“Would Riverside set up checkpoints all around the city and have police confiscate marijuana?” DeAguilera asked. “It doesn’t make a lot of sense.”
About 200 municipalities in California have banned retail medical marijuana sales, according to estimates from the national medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access, while more than 40 have laws allowing dispensaries.
Kris Hermes, a spokesman for the organization, said Riverside is taking the wrong approach with its ban.
“Banning all kinds of distribution and allowing patients to cultivate themselves is severely restricting when it comes to people who don’t have the skill or money to cultivate,” Hermes said. “Perhaps this is a new area that will result in litigation.”
Last year, a civil grand jury report in San Luis Obispo County noted the delivery services created a “gray market” that local government was ignoring. As a result, the city of Arroyo Grande decided to prohibit mobile medical marijuana.
State law doesn’t specifically mention delivery services but advocates believe the businesses are allowed if they work under the cooperative or collective model. However, no agency is regulating the delivery services and some legal experts believe Riverside’s decision will lead to more litigation.
“Can you stop commerce that is crossing jurisdictional lines?” asked Marsha Cohen, a law professor at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law. “It’s a constant pushing of the legal envelope. Who knows where it will end.”
It’s been rough waters for the medical marijuana industry in the first state to legalize marijuana for medical use. Many dispensaries have been targeted by federal authorities for nearly two years.
More than 100 medical marijuana dispensaries across Los Angeles County received warning letters this week from the government to shut down as part of a coordinated effort by the state’s four federal prosecutors. Many of the more than 600 dispensaries in the seven-county Central District of California have closed, authorities said.
With the widespread enforcement combined with no longer permitting delivery services, the result could mean those who need medical marijuana will have to look far and wide, possibly at great expense, to get their medicine.
“I think inevitably areas that are undergoing law enforcement measures will definitely be forced to travel longer distances to get their medicine or they will go to the illicit market or more tragically do without,” Hermes said.
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