California Weed

Marijuana home deliveries challenged by California cities in new lawsuit

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Budtender Danny Cress gives a crash course in recreational marijuana, legal in California as of Jan. 1.
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Budtender Danny Cress gives a crash course in recreational marijuana, legal in California as of Jan. 1.

Twenty-four California cities and one county are suing the state to strike down a regulation that allows marijuana retailers to deliver products to residents in their communities without local permits.

The lawsuit filed Friday in Fresno County Superior Court highlights a rift over a January 2019 rule from the Bureau of Cannabis Control that cleared the way for licensed cannabis companies to make home deliveries anywhere in the state, bypassing cities that wanted to regulate them.

“Each community should be able to decide on their own how they chose to deal with the legalization of marijuana,” Clovis Police Chief Matt Basgall said in a news release announcing the lawsuit.

The cities argue that rule conflicts with another provision in state law that gives them control over how marijuana companies operate within city boundaries. They want marijuana companies to obtain local permits before selling products.

“By disregarding local governments’ reasonable regulatory authority on cannabis deliveries, the BCC has imposed a one-size-fits-all approach to cannabis regulation,” said Carolyn Coleman, executive director of the League of California Cities.

Advocates for the marijuana industry said they anticipated the lawsuit and argued it would cause Californians to continue buying cannabis from black-market dealers instead of state-regulated businesses.

They’re also preparing to lobby against a bill by Assemblyman Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova, that would undo the regulation permitting statewide cannabis delivery services.

“The true threats to public safety are the unlicensed, unregulated, untaxed services that don’t care if there’s a delivery ban or not,” said Max Mikalonis, a lobbyist at K Street Consulting in Sacramento. “If you ban legal delivery and the lawsuit succeeds, then you’re shutting out the legal market.”

Californians in 2016 voted to legalize retail marijuana sales. The initiative gave local jurisdictions power to grant permits, and some cities have chosen restrict cannabis sales.

The Sacramento Bee last year found that residents in 40 percent of the state had to drive 60 miles or more to reach a licensed cannabis retailer.

“It’s not fair that we’re going to punish people that don’t have the ability to dive upwards of 100 miles to get to the nearest dispensary,” said Jackie McGowan, who works with Mikalonis.

The Bureau of Cannabis Control developed the delivery regulation over two years, accepting public comment from both sides.

“The public spoke loud and clear in favor of statewide delivery,” cannabis bureau spokesman Alex Traverso said in a statement at the time.

The Bureau of Cannabis Control on Friday declined to comment on the lawsuit.

Santa Cruz County is suing the state over the rule along with the following cities: Clovis, Ceres, Newman, Oakdale, Patterson, Riverbank, Turlock, Atwater, Sonora, Tracy, Angels Camp, Dixon, Vacaville, Agoura Hills, Arcadia, Beverly Hills, Covina, Downey, McFarland, Palmdale, Riverside, San Pablo, Tehachapi and Temecula.

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