The City of Temecula initiated this action claiming the land use of the defendant, Cooperative Patients Services, was in violation of the local code, constituting a public nuisance. The City moved for, and the trial court granted, a preliminary injunction barring the defendant from operating a medical marijuana dispensary. The defendant appealed and the Court of Appeal of the State of California, Fourth Appellate District, affirmed.
Under California law, when determining whether to grant a preliminary injunction, the court considers the movant’s likelihood of success on the merits and balances the respective harms to the parties should the injunction be granted or not. In reviewing the trial court’s determination, the Court of Appeal utilizes the abuse of discretion standard. This appeal focuses squarely on the likelihood of success factor, as the defendant alleges that the local laws banning medical marijuana dispensaries, thus giving rise to the City’s cause of action, are preempted by state law.
In making a preemption determination, the Court of Appeal stated that where a land use regulation is concerned, preemption will be found only where there is a “a clear indication of preemptive intent from the Legislature[.]” California has enacted two major pieces of legislation that afford medical marijuana protections. First, the State enacted the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 (hereinafter “CUA”), which protects individuals from prosecution from possessing or cultivating marijuana for medical purposes. In 2003, the State enacted the Medical Marijuana Program Act of 2003 (hereinafter “MMPA”), which sought state wide uniformity by legislatively protecting cooperative or collective cultivation of medical marijuana. The court also noted that although federal law criminalizes all forms of marijuana, the aforementioned state laws are not preempted.
First, the court found that the CUA and the MMPA do not prohibit municipal governments from banning medical marijuana dispensaries within their jurisdiction. The court made this ruling as the City did not duplicate or contradict state law, nor did the City enter into a field dominated by state law. Most notably, the MMPA immunizes dispensaries from nuisance abatement to the extent that the dispensaries are prosecuted solely on the basis of their dispensing medical marijuana. Here, the MMPA does not extend the defendants immunity, as the City’s action is based on a zoning violation, not “solely” the distribution. The court held the distribution is immunized by state law until the local government regulates against it. The court further stated that “Neither the CUA nor the MMPA provides individuals with inalienable rights to establish, operate, or use medical marijuana dispensaries.”
The Court of Appeal also held that there is not express field preemption because the state legislature did not expressly manifest an intent to occupy the entire field of medical marijuana distribution.
The court then addressed whether the field of medical marijuana distribution is implied occupied by state law. In order to find implied field occupation, the court focuses on the actions of the legislature, looking for an intention to occupy the entire field. The court reluctantly finds implied field occupation because it implies an intent the legislature could have expressly provided. In this instance, the court found no preemption based on implied field occupation, as the state legislature did not completely cover the field, the state laws tolerate local action, and the benefits experienced by the local law outweigh any adverse affects it may have on the state law.
The Court of Appeal found no state preemption of the local prohibition, and, thus, affirmed the grant of the preliminary injunction. However, one judge dissented, finding that state law does not allow the local banning of medical marijuana dispensaries. The dissenting judge undertook a statutory analysis, which illustrated that local governments may only “restrict” and “regulate” dispensaries. The dissenter found this language did not afford a municipality with the ability to ban or prohibit dispensaries.
City of Temecula v. Cooperative Patients Services, 2012 WL 4788107 (Cal. Ct. App., 4th Dist., Div. 2, Oct. 9, 2012).
Thee opinion can be accessed here.