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Local Governments Sue State of California Over Cannabis Delivery Laws

Some local governments have already banned cannabis and are now seeking to ban home deliveries from other counties.

A.J. Herrington

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Local Governments Sue State of California Over Cannabis Delivery Laws
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Local governments for 24 cities and one county are suing California state regulators in an effort to change cannabis home delivery regulations that were adopted earlier this year. The suit, which was filed in Fresno Superior Court on Thursday, seeks to allow local governments to block deliveries of cannabis products to addresses within their jurisdiction. The legal action names the Bureau of Cannabis Control and its head, Lori Ajax, as defendants in the suit.

At issue is a provision in the permanent regulations that were initially released by the BCC in June of last year that reads “a delivery employee may deliver to any jurisdiction within the State of California.” Walter Allen, a council member for the city of Covina, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, said that the BCC regulation is contrary to Prop 64, the initiative passed by voters in 2016 to legalize the recreational use and sale of cannabis. The proposition included language to allow local governments to ban cannabis businesses from operating in their jurisdictions.

“Californians voted to allow recreational and commercial cannabis with the specific promise that each community would be able to regulate or even ban it within their community,” said Allen. “The BCC’s actions in adopting this regulation burden local governments in jurisdictions that have regulated or banned commercial cannabis deliveries.”

“We don’t want deliveries in our city because of the concern over criminal activity,” added Allen, who is a retired police officer. “The problem we have is the state has taken it upon itself to bypass Proposition 64 and supersede our local ordinances, and we are really upset about that.”

The plaintiffs in the suit also include Santa Cruz County and the Northern California cities of Angels Camp, Atwater, Ceres, Clovis, Dixon, McFarland, Newman, Oakdale, Patterson, Riverbank, San Pablo, Sonora, Tehachapi, Tracy, Turlock, and Vacaville. In Southern California, the cities of  Arcadia, Agoura Hills, Beverly Hills, Downey, Palmdale, Riverside, and Temecula have joined the suit against the BCC.

Plaintiffs Want Local Control

Ryan Coonerty, chair of the Board of Supervisors of Santa Cruz County, said that the delivery regulation takes away power guaranteed to local governments by the initiative.

“The BCC is fundamentally changing Proposition 64, eroding local control and harming our local cannabis businesses by allowing commercial cannabis deliveries in every jurisdiction in California,” said Coonerty. “This betrays the promise made to the voters in Proposition 64.”

But Dale Gieringer, the director of the California chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said that the local governments in the lawsuit are trying to overstep their authority.

“To invalidate home delivery of any legal product whatsoever is really well beyond the line,” he said. “I think they are stretching local authority to an outrageous and unprecedented extent.”

Advocates for statewide cannabis home delivery say that it provides a legal avenue for recreational users who live in communities that have banned dispensaries and allows easier access to cannabis for medical marijuana patients.

“It’s absolutely outrageous for local governments to say they cannot have their medicine delivered to them,” he said.

Alex Traverso, a spokesperson for the BCC, declined to comment on the suit, according to media reports.

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