COSTA MESA, Calif., October 21, 2011 – In a victory for local governments’ ability to protect communities from the identified negative impacts of so-called “medicinal marijuana dispensaries” the California Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal of a disabled women who asserted she had a constitutional right to access marijuana. She claimed that zoning laws in the City of Dana Point, which does not permit dispensaries, created a ban that infringed on her constitutional rights.
City Attorney Patrick Muñoz, a partner with Rutan, with the assistance of partner Douglas Dennington and associate Jennifer Farrell, represented Dana Point.
The appeal contended that the city’s zoning ordinances that did not expressly recognize medical marijuana dispensaries as permitted uses constituted a zoning ban on dispensaries and that state law, specifically the Compassionate Use Act (CUA) and the Medical Marijuana Program Act (MMPA), preempts cities from adopting zoning bans on dispensaries.
The Court dismissed the appeal on the basis that a “member” of a so called “collective” does not have standing to raise challenges to a City’s zoning laws. The court made note of her assertions that she has a right to access marijuana. In its dismissal of the appeal, the Court pointed out that the only rights that exist under the CUA and MMPA are statutory and specifically the right of a group to collectively or cooperatively produce marijuana.
Last March, Rutan won a summary judgment that required Beach Cities Collective, the medical-marijuana dispensary in Dana Point where the plaintiff in the instant appeal purchased her marijuana, to pay more than $2.4 million in civil damages. The firm was also victorious in Orange County Superior Court in two other lawsuits that accused other dispensaries of selling marijuana in violation of the CUA and MMPA, which prohibit dispensaries from operating as for profit, business enterprises. All totaled, Rutan was successful in obtaining judgments, including attorney fee awards, in the three cases totaling approximately $7,000,000.
“We are pleased that Rutan attorneys are successfully representing our client in these high-profile cases,” said Hans Van Ligten, head of the firm’s Government and Regulatory Law Section.
About Rutan & Tucker LLP
Rutan & Tucker is the largest full-service law firm headquartered in Orange County, California with offices in Costa Mesa and Palo Alto. Primary practice areas include corporate and securities law, business and real estate litigation, labor and employment law, intellectual property, real estate, government and regulatory law, land use law, bankruptcy, condemnation and property valuation, environmental law, and taxation and estate planning. Detailed information about the firm is available at www.rutan.com.