On Wednesday, a Fresno County Superior Court judge ruled in favor of the California Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) and removed a legal challenge that attempted to stop home deliveries of marijuana in California.
The lawsuit, jointly created by 24 Californian cities such as Beverly Hills and Riverside, had been filed in April 2019 in response to a then-recent law that allowed some marijuana deliveries into cities where marijuana shops were not allowed by local law. The cities had argued that local law should prevail in these matters and that it violated their right of home rule in cases of marijuana deliveries. Specifically, the cities said that delivery vans couldn’t use public roads to stop and deliver, as it constituted a sale.
“We agreed with the California Legislative Analyst that it allowed delivery through the jurisdiction and not a delivery to a physical address, which this regulation allows,” said Steve Churchwell, an attorney for the cities, earlier this year.
Marijuana control groups, which supported the cities, also argued in favor of local rule.
“It’s just big way around the law,” argued Rupert Clark, a rally organizer who specializes in drug and alcohol control related issues. “It doesn’t matter if they bought online or wherever. It’s going to a physical address in a city or jurisdiction that doesn’t allow sales. It should be illegal. In fact, in most states that allow marijuana-sales it is. California just went against the grain.”
However, Fresno County Superior Court Judge Rosemary McGuire ultimately ruled against the argument, noting that state law doesn’t conflict with local law as 2016’s Proposition 64 never commanded or prohibited anything, not giving them any authority on home delivery cases. Any veto power local jurisdictions thought they were promised were ultimately not found.
“The regulation states what the BCC, for its purposes, permits,” ruled Judge McGuire earlier this week. “It commands or prohibits nothing of the cities, and therefore is not necessarily in conflict with state law pursuant to which plaintiffs contend they retain authority to regulate and/or ban cannabis delivery within their jurisdictions.
“On the basis of that conclusion, the court finds that this matter is not ripe for adjudication, and dismisses the action as to all plaintiffs.”
Cities have other options to halt deliveries, appeal likely to come soon
The ruling, however, doesn’t allow for statewide blanket sales. As noted by Deputy Attorney General Ethan Turner, cities can still require delivery companies to get a business license from the city and follow local city ordinances.
Many celebrated the ruling on Wednesday, especially marijuana companies that feared a large decrease in sales after seeing positive growth during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“For many of us, this is a big thing,” said Ethan Bowers, who helps run a marijuana farm in Northern California. “We sold to shops before COVID-19. But with many recreational shops closed, all we really had, for many areas, was deliveries. And a lot of cities tried to keep us out citing these local laws.
“It’s legal here and they already bought it. All we are doing is getting it to them. They didn’t buy it at the door or anything. They just received it. We all thought it was crazy that they would try and stop it. And, if it had passed in court, we’d be looking anywhere for more sales, as at-home sales are really big during COVID-19.”
While the cities have not decided whether or not to appeal the decision, many legal experts have said that an appeal to a higher court is likely, especially if the COVID-19 pandemic continues on until the next year.