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Calif. Supreme Court to review medical marijuana dispensaries

February 5, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
The debate over local medical marijuana dispensaries is moving to the California Supreme Court. For the first time, the state's highest court is weighing in on medical marijuana laws.

The California Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments on whether local governments can ban retail pot dispensaries within their borders Tuesday.

The ruling will conclude whether local marijuana dispensaries will expand or face further contraction within the state.

This is an issue that many California cities and counties have taken to court in the past but has always had various outcomes. In most cases, courts have even implemented bans of their own.

Medical marijuana has been legal in California for more than 16 years. Advocates maintain the state's law allows local governments to set limits on dispensaries but not outlaw them.

Along with considering local dispensary bans, the state court is also set to decide whether marijuana's federal status as an illegal drug prohibits local governments from authorizing its distribution.

The Los Angeles City Council will also meet Tuesday, for the second time, to discuss whether to place an ordinance proposition on the May ballot to regulate and tax medical marijuana businesses in the city. Since the L.A. City Council approved the proposition in its first reading last week, it is likely that they will approve it again Tuesday.

Voters will also likely see three initiatives seeking to regulate pot dispensaries on the May ballot. But there will be political campaigns behind only two of them.

Americans for Safe Access, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union and the Greater Los Angeles Collectives Alliance have now thrown their support behind the city's measure. The coalition of medical marijuana activists initially created their own ordinance seeking similar regulations to that of the city council's but have since joined forces.

The city's measure would limit the number of dispensaries to 127, allowing only pot dispensaries that were established before a 2007 moratorium to operate. The city proposal will also increase sales tax on medical marijuana sales.

The third measure would allow for an unlimited number of dispensaries to open and continue operating.

The hearing is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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