• Court of Appeal Reverses Lower Court Decision to Close Medical Marijuana Stores in Lake Forest
  • March 2, 2012 | Authors: Jeffrey V. Dunn; Scott C. Smith
  • Law Firm: Best Best & Krieger LLP - Irvine Office
  • A California Court of Appeal remanded a 2010 order by an Orange County Superior Court judge to close eleven marijuana stores operating illegally in Lake Forest. The appellate court remanded the case for a determination of whether the dispensaries were operated in conjunction with the on site cultivation of marijuana.

    The appellate court, in its decision Wednesday, stated: "We discern no intent in the MMPA (California's Medical Marijuana Program Act) to authorize dispensaries to operate independently from a cultivation site." The court did find the MMPA preemptive for dispensaries that are linked to cultivation. Under this ruling, the trial court in this case will be able to apply the City’s zoning prohibitions, except where a marijuana store grows all of its marijuana onsite. The United States Department of Justice had taken enforcement action against all operating dispensaries in Lake Forest before the decision and none of the Lake Forest dispensaries were known to be involved in on-site cultivation, so the city expects the ruling to have no effect on these closures.

    The ruling by the state appellate court does not apply to federal drug prohibitions and enforcement actions that have demanded closure of all marijuana stores in Lake Forest, including the appellants’ former operations. In an October 2011 letter to the City of Lake Forest, United States Attorney Andre Birotte Jr. wrote, “Persons who are in the business of cultivating, selling, or distributing marijuana, and those who knowingly facilitate such activities, are in violation of the Controlled Substances Act regardless of state law.” Further, notwithstanding this decision, the issue of whether city zoning authority is affected at all by the MMPA is currently before the California Supreme Court.