by David Downs
California's balkanized approach to medical marijuana can mean profits or jail depending on where a patient lives. The most restrictive cities like Anaheim, Calif., have re-criminalized the drug, thereby setting up an appeals court showdown scheduled to end some time in the next seven days.
The California's 4th Appellate District Division Three will issue its opinion of 'Qualified Patients vs. Anaheim' by July 19th, capping a years-long appeal watched by thousands of patients, politicians, lawyers, and press. Qualified Patients' lawyer Anthony Curiale says cities cannot make growing and distributing medical marijuana illegal, because Prop 215 and SB420 took away the criminal penalties for doing so.
If the three-judge appellate court sides with Qualified Patients, and their reasoning is sound, it could set precedent used by lawyers across the state in battleground cities like Los Angeles, Costa Mesa, and San Jose. Anaheim City Attorney Moses W. Johnson said the city's ban has already stood up once in a trial court, and if it loses on appeal, Anaheim could take it to the state Supreme Court.
The appellate court could also rule in favor of Qualified Patients, but issue an unpublished opinion inapplicable to other cities, says Oakland lawyer Joseph Elford, counsel for Americans for Safe Access. “We're hoping it'll be a bellwether case, but there's no guarantee."
If Qualified Patients' appeal fails, California would simply become even more balkanized, says Curiale, with hard-line cities like San Leandro sending even more consumer dollars to cities like Oakland that tax and regulate the $14 billion a year agricultural product.