When it comes to legal cannabis, it’s hard to argue California isn’t king. One of the first states to legalize for recreational use back in 2018, the California marijuana industry has since inflated into a multi-billion dollar juggernaut, the largest legal cannabis market in the entire world in fact.
For consumers to participate in that vibrant and lucrative market, however, they need robust access to cannabis when and where they need it. That’s especially the case when it comes to medical cannabis patients. In the midst of a once-in-a-generation global pandemic where people need to prioritize social distancing and staying home unless venturing out is essential, patients having access to their medicine in such a high-stress time is vital.
That’s why many celebrated this week when a lawsuit filed way back in April 2019 to stop licensed, legal Californian cannabis delivery services from serving clients in California municipalities where cannabis is still forbidden was dismissed this past week.
We’re going to break down what that lawsuit was all about, why its getting dismissed is a huge win for cannabis patients across The Golden State and, most importantly, what impact this legal ruling could have on the present and future of access to medicine looks like for California medical cannabis patients.
Why is this Ruling Important for Cannabis Patients in California?
For medical cannabis patients and recreational users throughout California, this lawsuit being dismissed is a huge deal. At 770 miles long and 250 miles wide, the state of California is bigger than many countries combined. Despite its geographical vastness, medical cannabis patients throughout this massive state have been limited in their access to the medicine they need.
More than 57 percent of Californians voted in favor of Proposition 64, the ballot measure that legalized the adult use of cannabis. Yet only 25 percent of California’s cities and counties allow legal cannabis deliveries. That means medical patients living in places that didn’t allow cannabis didn’t have access to the medicine they needed.
That’s where delivery services come in. You can have food delivered to you from local restaurants and national chains via services like Grubhub and Doordash, booze brought to your door thanks to apps like Drizly, and your groceries shipped to you without needing to leave your couch thanks to Instacart or Shipt. So why not the same for cannabis?
The dismissal of this suit reaffirms a 2018 ruling amending California state law to allow licensed cannabis deliveries to be made into “any jurisdiction” in California regardless of local bans, laws, and regulations surrounding cannabis. The judge in charge of the case, Judge Rosemary McGuire, ruled that state and local ordinances “do not occupy the same field and are not in conflict.”
What Does This Ruling Mean for Cannabis Delivery Services?
That legal decision reaffirmed two major things. First, it upheld the state regulation that allows licensed cannabis delivery companies to deliver cannabis anywhere in the state. That means that cannabis delivery operations can still provide cannabis to patients in places that prohibit cannabis. It basically means things can continue as they did before.
As long as cannabis delivery companies follow already existing rules and regulations like no external advertisement or cannabis-related material on vehicles that would distinguish them from the average driver and keeping the cannabis they’re delivering stored out of sight, these services should be able to carry on operating as they did before.
Secondly, however, it reaffirms that individual cities and counties do still have the right to forbid cannabis-related operations within their borders, which is still worrisome for cannabis delivery services. The second part of that ruling means that delivery services still operate in a sort of legal grey area under California law, one where they can either keep providing cannabis to customers and still risk legal challenges from local municipalities trying to enforce their bans, or they can stop operating in those communities, which would leave medical patients stuck in limbo.
The issue for those local communities, however, is that keeping these delivery operations out is incredibly difficult. With delivery vehicles being unmarked, local police would either have to pull over every vehicle they see around town to make sure they’re not a delivery driver or they would need to set up expensive sting operations in hope of catching one driver at a time. Like it or not, there’s no real way for these local places to keep delivered cannabis out.
The Bottom Line: What Does This Mean for Cannabis Patients?
In short, this court case being thrown out is good for cannabis patients because it doesn’t shake anything up drastically. The judge said that the cannabis delivery companies could keep on doing their things throughout the state and put the responsibility for stopping those deliveries on local officials, which they can’t realistically do. While this case being thrown out might not have been some sweeping, comprehensive mandate on the state of legal cannabis in California, it’s a good thing for patients when it comes to accessing their medicine. Sometimes, especially in court, not taking steps backwards is just as important as progress forwards.
For now, those 300 or so licensed cannabis delivery companies can keep doing their things for medical cannabis patients all throughout California and that comes as very good news, especially in such uncertain times.