California Marijuana Cultivation Ban Is Being Challenged

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Capitalism and marijuana meet in Telluride

This is Colorado’s week in the sun (or, if you’re standing in line to buy legal adult-use weed in Denver, snow) and rightly so.


While history is being made in the Rockies, back here in California we’re sort of stuck in Prohibition. Here, local governments are still allowed to say, “No thanks” to medical marijuana and ban citizens from growing their own cannabis — even as state law gives them the express right.

Maybe not for long. Attorney Joe Elford, long the state’s most prominent pro-cannabis counsel, is asking the state Supreme Court to hear an appeal — and, eventually, overturn the decision that allows marijuana-hating municipalities to prohibit their citizens from cultivating legal cannabis.

The case in point is James Maral v City of Live Oak. Live Oak, a small town in Sutter County in between Yuba City and Oroville, bans medical marijuana dispensaries and also bans anyone with a recommendation for medical cannabis to grow marijuana.

Maral, 42, is an ill man with damaged discs in his back; he also suffers from a condition called “compartment syndrome.” He wants to use cannabis for his pain and to grow it for his mother, who has Crohn’s disease. But he can’t — not if he lives in a weed-free zone.

Weed-free zones in a state that allows medical weed is a violation of state law, Elford says in a brief filed today.

In 2013, the state Supreme Court ruled that cities and counties have the right to ban storefront dispensaries. That’s because marijuana stores aren’t, still at this late stage, expressly allowed by law.

Small-scale medical marijuana cultivation, however, is, at least in theory. The California Health and Safety Code says a qualified patient or caregiver can grow up to six mature or 12 immature plants.

Not according to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in Sacramento, however, which ruled that there is no “unfettered right to cultivate marijuana for medical purposes.”

Of course, banning marijuana cultivation outright is a bit silly — it’s illegal to grow weed in national forests, yet it happens.

Other counties are already following Live Oak’s lead: On Jan. 7, Fresno County will consider a county-wide ban on marijuana cultivation, according to California NORML, which is supporting Elford in his effort.

“If you ban dispensaries and you ban cultivation, you’re ripping the heart out of California’s medical marijuana laws,” Elford said in a statement. “The appellate court’s decision conflicts with the intent of the electorate and Legislature and should not be allowed to stand.”

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