A particularly contentious area of the law for Los Angeles criminal defense attorneys is medical marijuana law. While medical marijuana was legalized in Los Angeles and the rest of the state, law enforcement (both state and federal) continue to raid medical marijuana dispensaries. In fact, this battle is taking place throughout the state of California.
Arguments over medical marijuana use, as well as in other cities, are heating up all over California. By some accounts, there are more medical marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles than there are Starbucks and 7/11 stores. In Fresno, the fight over medical marijuana has recently been focusing on zoning laws and the overlap of legal jurisdiction between the city, state and national government. Fresno recently adopted zoning laws that effectively prohibit medical marijuana dispensaries from operating in city limits. Federal policy technically makes the use of marijuana illegal, even for medical purposes. The Obama administration, however, has taken a less forceful track than the Bush administration, saying it will not prosecute medical marijuana dispensaries or the patients who use it in states where it is legal by state law.
Fresno’s nine recognized marijuana dispensaries have been ordered to close their doors while lawyers hash out their legality in court. In 2006, Fresno very obviously attempted to ban dispensaries within city limits by drafting zoning laws that specified that all marijuana dispensaries must comply with both state and federal laws in order to operate. Since federal law prohibits marijuana dispensaries, no dispensary could fully comply and remain open legally. Opponents of the use of marijuana for medical purposes argue that Fresno’s zoning laws banning marijuana dispensaries are supported by federal law, which supersedes state law. Those in favor of medical marijuana argue that states’ rights and California state law should prevail, keeping the dispensaries open. Trial in the case has been set for January, 2010. In the meantime, opponents of the dispensaries have asked the presiding judge for a temporary restraining order that would shutter all of the city’s dispensaries until after the trial. The order was granted on October 28th. Attorneys for the city’s nine dispensaries will appeal the decision in an attempt to keep the dispensaries open until the trial begins.
Medical marijuana policies are likewise subject to the same confusion. While city zoning laws have not gone so far as to ban marijuana dispensaries, possession, sale or the manufacture of marijuana for medical purposes may still get you arrested, depending on the law enforcement agency that arrests you. With such a complicated criminal matter, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney by your side.
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