Ruling on Legality of California Dispensary Closures a Blow to Medical Marijuana Industry, MMJ Patients

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A federal appeals court has sided with two California cities that are forcing all marijuana dispensaries within their boundaries to close, ruling that such moves do not violate federal disability laws.

The decision by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ends a last-ditch effort by disabled MMJ patients in Lake Forest and Costa Mesa, California, to prevent city officials from cutting off their access to medical marijuana.

The cannabis industry had been watching the case closely. A decision in favor of the patients could have reverberated across the country, giving medical cannabis advocates a new legal strategy to combat forced dispensary closures.

Given that the court ruled in favor of the cities, however, it’s unlikely this type of lawsuit could be used to stop local officials from closing dispensaries elsewhere. The ruling is also a blow to California’s medical marijuana industry, as the two cities involved in the lawsuit have already shuttered dozens of dispensaries and will now boot the handful of centers that remain open.

The patients behind the suit claimed that the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) gives them the federal right to use medical cannabis and that forcing dispensaries to close is a discriminatory practice. But the appeals court – upholding another court’s decision – ruled that the ADA doesn’t apply in this situation because marijuana is still illegal under federal laws.

“This ruling further solidifies the City’s stance that there is no place for stores which violate federal narcotics laws and city zoning regulations in our community,” Lake Forest City Manager Robert C. Dunek said in a press release issued after the ruling.