In the first significant challenge to California’s open cannabis market, 25 local governments that restrict pot sales sued Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration Thursday, arguing that by allowing home deliveries in their city limits, the state is violating 2016’s Proposition 64, which legalized recreational marijuana.
The lawsuit, which was filed in Fresno County Superior Court against the California Bureau of Cannabis Control and its chief, Lori Ajax, comes in response to a regulation adopted by the agency in January that permits state-licensed firms to deliver cannabis in cities that have banned pot shops. Officials from cities with prohibitions on pot sales objected to the rules, voicing concerns that home deliveries of cannabis would lead to robberies of cash-laden vans and an influx of illegal sellers blending in with licensed delivery fleets.
To avoid opposition from city leaders and police chiefs, backers of Proposition 64 offered assurances in 2016 that the measure would preserve local control of pot sales. The lawsuit notes that the measure’s introduction said that it “safeguards local control, allowing local governments to regulate marijuana-related activities.”
The cities behind the suit contend that the bureau lacks legal authority to allow deliveries in conflict with local ordinances because Proposition 64 and a law signed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown guarantee local governments veto power over pot sales in their jurisdictions.
“We don’t want deliveries in our city because of the concern over criminal activity,” said Walter Allen III, a city councilman in Covina and 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.”
Plaintiffs including the cities of Covina, Downey, Riverside and Beverly Hills are among the 80% of California’s 482 municipalities that have banned stores selling cannabis for recreational purposes. Other cities that have joined the lawsuit allow retail stores but want to ensure that only businesses they have screened and licensed are able to make home deliveries within their city limits.
Beverly Hills bans cannabis stores, while limiting deliveries to medical marijuana provided to patients. But the state rule means recreational cannabis can also be delivered, said Mayor John Mirisch, who called the state’s interpretation of Proposition 64 a “bait and switch.”
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Riverside Mayor Pro Tem Mike Soubirous said his city should be able to regulate when deliveries are made and who makes the deliveries, but said he believes the state rule has rendered him powerless to make those decisions.
“The council should be able to run interference for the residents and protect their quality of life,” said Soubirous, a former lieutenant commander in the California Highway Patrol.
The lawsuit could jeopardize ongoing state efforts to expand cannabis sales as delivery services compete with retail storefronts in California over a legal market estimated last year to be valued at nearly $1 billion.
Proposition 64 provided for state licensing of marijuana growers and sellers, allowing purchase and possession of up to 28.5 grams of cannabis by adults 21 and older for recreational use. With supporters of legalization arguing home delivery is important to providing safe access to the legalized drug, the state cannabis bureau said its regulation is in keeping with the intent of the ballot measure as long as deliveries are handled by state-licensed firms.
Suing the state over cannabis delivery
Santa Cruz County
Source: Associated Press
Read more about cannabis commerce in the North Bay: nbbj.news/cannabis