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Local Governments Sue to Stop Statewide Cannabis Delivery in California

April 5, 2019
(PeopleImages/iStock)
LOS ANGELES (AP) — In a major challenge to regulations that govern California’s marijuana market, Beverly Hills and 24 other local governments sued Friday to overturn a rule allowing home deliveries statewide, even into communities that banned commercial cannabis sales.

The League of California Cities and police chiefs had complained that unrestricted home deliveries would create an unruly market of largely hidden cannabis transactions, while undercutting local control guaranteed in the 2016 law that broadly legalized marijuana sales in California and created the nation’s largest legal cannabis marketplace.

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Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors Chairman Ryan Coonerty said in a statement that the state rule damages local marijuana businesses and “betrays the promise made to the voters” in 2016.

The significance of the lawsuit goes beyond home deliveries. It represents an important early court test of Proposition 64, the law that broadly legalized sales for adults. There have been numerous disputes over precisely what parts of the law mean, including the size of cannabis farms.

The state Bureau of Cannabis Control, which drafted the rule, had no immediate comment on the lawsuit, which was filed late Thursday in Fresno County Superior Court.

The lawsuit asks the court to invalidate the rule and prohibit state regulators from enforcing it.

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Marijuana companies and consumers had pushed for statewide home deliveries because vast stretches of the state have banned commercial cannabis activity or not set up rules to allow legal sales, creating what’s been called pot “deserts.” Residents in those areas were effectively cut off from legal marijuana purchases.

The rule cleared by state lawyers in January sought to clarify what had been apparently conflicting regulations about where marijuana can be delivered in California.

The 2016 law said local governments had the authority to ban nonmedical cannabis businesses. But state regulators pointed to the business and professions code, which said local governments “shall not prevent delivery of cannabis or cannabis products on public roads” by a licensed operator.

The cannabis bureau had said it was merely clarifying what had always been the case: A licensed cannabis delivery can be made to “any jurisdiction within the state.”

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In addition to Beverly Hills and Santa Cruz County, plaintiffs include the cities of Agoura Hills, Angels Camp, Arcadia, Atwater, Ceres, Clovis, Covina, Dixon and Downey. Also participating are McFarland, Newman, Oakdale, Palmdale, Patterson, Riverbank, Riverside, San Pablo, Sonora, Tehachapi, Temecula, Tracy, Turlock and Vacaville.

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