In her e-newsletter last week, Anaheim Councilwoman Kris Murray published this column on the state Supreme Court’s ruling on the legality of cities banning medical marijuana dispensaries, and I’ve been meaning to post it here:
CA Supreme Court Upholds Cities’ Right to Ban Medical Marijuana Dispensaries
Last week, the California Supreme Court ruled in favor of cities’ right to ban medical marijuana dispensaries within city borders. [Read the full story here.]
This ruling is a significant victory for Anaheim, as the City has been working for years to ban dispensaries from operating within our community.
As background, in 2007, the City adopted Ordinance No. 6067, which banned the establishment and operation of medical marijuana dispensaries in Anaheim. Soon thereafter, the City was sued in an attempt to overturn the ordinance and that litigation continues. In 2011, the City Council approved a moratorium to prevent new medical marijuana dispensaries from opening while we continued to work through the courts on the existing litigation and that moratorium expired in January of this year. This moratorium was passed in the wake of numerous dispensaries opening within Anaheim neighborhoods. That year, I worked closely with Senator Lou Correa on state legislation, SB 847- legislation seeking to ban dispensaries from operating within 600 feet of residential areas.
A call for SB 847 was put into place when Anaheim witnessed firsthand the establishment of a marijuana dispensary in one of our residential neighborhoods on Chestnut Street. It was appalling that the City was without a speedy remedy to remove this dispensary set up on a small neighborhood street filled with families and children. Even more shocking was that this dispensary operated within the first floor of a residential unit that housed a family with young children upstairs.
At that time, the State of California already had measures in place preventing dispensaries from operating within 600 feet of a school in the form of AB 2650, which was enacted in 2010. Yet nothing was being done to allow the places where children and families reside the same protections. That is why I, along with city staff, traveled to Sacramento and urged the Legislature to support Senator Correa’s bill (SB 847) that would offer these same protections to neighborhoods. The State Legislature agreed that neighborhoods should have that level of protection and the bill passed with overwhelming support but was ultimately vetoed by the Governor.
So where does this recent ruling leave us?
Supreme Court Justice Marvin Baxter wrote: “While some counties and cities might consider themselves well-suited to accommodating medical marijuana dispensaries, conditions in other communities might lead to the reasonable decision that such facilities within their borders, even if carefully sited, well managed, and closely monitored, would present unacceptable local risks and burdens.”
The Court’s unanimous decision to allow cities to determine whether or not these facilities should operate within their borders is a step in the right direction. Not only does the decision support Anaheim’s efforts to govern with the community’s best interests in mind, but it also allows us to move forward with a permanent ban on medical marijuana dispensaries. This is a victory for the work that has been accomplished and ensures the safety of Anaheim residents.
This is an issue where my limited-government conservatism trumps my libertarian leanings. Generally speaking, libertarians believe that liberty can survive just fine amidst the flourishing of vice; they have a tendency to mistake license for liberty.
I think that is a mistaken world view that is at odds with beliefs of the Founding Fathers, who understood that the constitutional order they created works best for a moral people. It’s no coincidence that the administrative state has grown much more quickly in secular Europe than in the United States, which is a much more religious nation. I’m not being a puritan, but it is perfectly legitimate (and conservative) for state and local governments to act to restrict or ban activities that undermine public morals. Such restrictions (paradoxically, some might think) complement and support the benignly restraining influence of civic institutions like churches and voluntary associations to expand the sphere of true liberty. It’s what conservatives used to call “ordered liberty.”