Medical marijuana ruling fails to settle Anaheim case

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A state appeals court has sent a closely watched medical marijuana case back to superior court for a new trial. The case challenges Anaheim’s pot shop ban.

The Qualified Patients Association — a medical marijuana dispensary — challenged Anaheim’s ban, claiming it violated the Unruh Civil Rights Act. The appellate court said that act applies only to businesses.

The court did not rule on Anaheim’s argument that cities can ban pot shops, despite state laws allowing the use of medical marijuana. That means pot advocates can make their case again in a new trial that the 1996 voter-approved initiative that legalized medical marijuana — and a later state law — prohibits cities and counties from banning pot shops.

In ordering the new trial, the appellate panel said an Orange County judge had wrongly dismissed the case based on arguments that a federal ban on marijuana trumps state law. Medical pot advocates hailed that part of the ruling, even though other courts have ruled that federal law does supersede state law.

The three-judge panel hinted that they believed medical marijuana advocates have a good case.

"It appears incongruous at first glance to conclude a city may criminalize as a misdemeanor a particular use of property the state expressly has exempted from `criminal liability.'"

On the issue of whether federal law trumps state law, the court wrote "local entities are creatures of the state, not the federal government.''

KPCC Wire services contributed to this report.