"The issue in this case is whether California's medical marijuana statutes pre-empt a local ban on facilities that distribute medical marijuana," the unanimous opinion said. "We conclude they do not."
Federal and state law "generally prohibit the use, possession, cultivation, transportation and furnishing of marijuana," the opinion said. "However, California statutes, the Compassionate Use Act of 1996 ... and the more recent Medical Marijuana Program [under a state statute] have removed certain state law obstacles from the ability of qualified patients to obtain and use marijuana for legitimate medical purposes."
However, the act and the program protect medical marijuana users from arrest and prosecution.
The opinion said "the plain language of the CUA and the MMP is limited in scope. It grants specified persons and groups, when engaged in specified conduct, immunity from prosecution under specified state criminal and nuisance laws pertaining to marijuana. ... The CUA makes no mention of medical marijuana cooperatives, collectives, or dispensaries. It merely provides that state laws against the possession and cultivation of marijuana shall not apply to a qualified patient, or the patient's designated primary caregiver, who possesses or cultivates marijuana for the patient's personal medical use upon a physician's recommendation."
About 180 small communities across the state ban dispensaries. The case before the state high court involved the ban in Riverside.
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