By Jeffrey V. Dunn
No matter where one stands on the issue of medical marijuana, many observers agree that California’s medical marijuana laws are not only uncertain but raise federal law preemption issues. Often overlooked in the debate over medical marijuana, one of the purposes of the state’s Compassionate Use Act was to “encourage the state and federal government to implement a plan to provide for the safe and affordable distribution of medical marijuana.” That has not happened.
So for now, local governments in California that are confronted with the proliferation of store-front marijuana dispensaries are coming face-to-face with not only inconsistent appellate court decisions over how they can regulate the establishments, but also federal law that is anything but ambiguous when it comes to marijuana.
The federal Controlled Substances Act prohibits all marijuana activity including cultivation, possession and distribution. There is no exception for medical use. Thus, any state law recognizing marijuana use raises potential preemption issues.
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