SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Although demand for cannabis delivery is surging as consumers and dispensary staff try to keep their distance due to COVID-19, the fate of this service for many California residents could be tied to an upcoming legal battle.
California voters approved Prop. 64 in November of 2016 and lawmakers approved the Medicinal and Adult-Use Cannabis and Regulation Safety Act (MAUCRSA) in 2017. In many regions across the state, however, local governments have decided against allowing legal recreational cannabis sales.
Some local authorities are taking things a step further. Santa Cruz County and twenty-four other municipalities have filed a lawsuit challenging the legality of cannabis delivery services such as Eaze making dropoffs in jurisdictions that have elected not to permit recreational cannabis sales. The lawsuit has been filed against the California Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC) and Lori Ajax, the bureau’s chief. The trial, ironically scheduled for April 20, 2020, initially, has been rescheduled to July 16, 2020, due to the coronavirus.
California’s Attorney General office is questioning the validity of the lawsuit and filed a brief in Fresno County Superior Court on behalf of the BCC.
“Plaintiffs are able to challenge the delivery regulation only by ignoring the structure, purpose, and history of MAUCRSA and urging this court to reach the bizarre conclusion that a statute stating that local jurisdictions ‘shall not prevent delivery of cannabis or cannabis products’ actually gives local jurisdictions unfettered power to ban such deliveries,” the Attorney General’s office said in the brief.
The Attorney General’s office cited several arguments illustrating why it views the lawsuit as lacking validity: Both Prop. 64 and MAUCRSA condone cannabis delivery across the entire state of California, local police do not have the authority to prevent individuals from ordering a state legal product for delivery, and the lawsuit would oppose the will of California voters who approved Prop. 64.
“Permitting local jurisdictions to ban all deliveries of cannabis also would undermine the stated objectives of Proposition 64,” the brief says.
The municipalities that filed the lawsuit claim California regulation 5416(d) clearly states that MAUCRSA “shall not be interpreted to supersede or limit the authority of a local jurisdiction.”
It is clear that this case could have important ramifications for the cannabis industry. The Attorney General’s office fears that if the cities filing the suit prevail there could be a proliferation of black market cannabis sales threatening the legal market.
“If legal transactions were not allowed in those jurisdictions, only illicit sales would occur there, the illicit market would be perpetuated, and the goal of creating a legally regulated, statewide commercial cannabis market would be sabotaged,” the brief stated.