Fresno Sued by Medical Pot Advocacy Group

Fresno, CA – A medical marijuana advocacy organization today filed a lawsuit against the city of Fresno for enacting a ban on medical cannabis dispensaries. The lead plaintiff, William McPike, is suing Fresno with Americans for Safe Access (ASA), a medical marijuana organization concerned with what they contend are the illegal permanent bans passed by Fresno and 3 other California municipalities.
“The permanent ban on dispensing, enacted by Fresno and a handful of other cities in California, is an unlawful barrier to medical marijuana,” said ASA Legal Campaign Director Kris Hermes. “Without the means of growing it themselves or finding a caregiver to do it for them, dispensing collectives maybe a patient’s only legal option for obtaining medical marijuana.”

William McPike applied for a business license for the “Tower Health Clinic and Dispensary,” and went to the city repeatedly to satisfy their informational requests. When he thought he was close to being denied or approved, the city council passed the ban without informing him of the hearing, or the decision, until a couple of days after the fact.

The basis of the lawsuit is that Fresno is in violation of SB 420, which the California legislature passed into law in 2003 in order to clarify the Compassionate Use Act (CUA), noting that uncertainties in the act have prevented qualified patients and primary caregivers from obtaining the protections afforded by the act. According to the ASA lawsuit, cities and counties are compelled by SB 420 to implement ways in which qualified patients and designated primary caregivers can obtain the full protections afforded by the act.

Currently, there are thirteen cities or counties that have enacted local ordinances recognizing and regulating medical cannabis dispensing collectives. Thirty-four other localities have temporary moratoria while they write ordinances. Americans for Safe Access says they have not ruled out litigation against the cities of Rocklin, Yuba City, and San Rafael, which have also passed permanent bans.

The US Supreme Court will rule this spring on Ashcroft v. Raich to determine the extent to which the federal government has authority to interfere in the intrastate conduct of medical marijuana patients. However, even if the Ninth Circuit’s decision in Raich v. Ashcroft is overturned, the decision will not alter the California state law allowing for collective and cooperative dispensaries.

Americans for Safe Access News Advisory
Media Contact: Hilary McQuie: (510) 333-8554
Monday, April 25, 2005

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