LONG BEACH — The California Supreme Court on Wednesday dismissed a case that would have decided if this city can regulate medical marijuana.
Justices made their decision after Matthew Pappas, the attorney for the petitioners in the appellate court case, Pack v. Long Beach, abandoned his original argument that Long Beach's short-lived rules to allow and regulate medical marijuana violates federal law.
Pappas didn't return a call seeking comment. The lawsuit was filed by two disabled individuals, Ryan Pack and Anthony Gayle, in 2010.
Fearing it would be unable to control the spread of collectives as a result of the appeal court decision, the City Council in February acted to repeal its permit scheme while at the same time banning collectives of more than three people.
A six-month exemption for operators who were given permission in 2010 to provide medical marijuana if they complied with local regulations expired Aug. 12.
Before the repeal and ban, Long Beach appealed the Pack decision, handed down in October, to clarify its powers to control collectives.
In throwing out the appeal, the court cited Long Beach's ban since the Pack ruling.
"The legal validity of (the permit law) is therefore moot," justices said in announcing the dismissal. "The legal validity of (the ban) has not been considered at any prior stage of this proceeding, and is not ripe for review by this court."
Medpot advocates were hopeful after the decision, claiming that since Pappas abjured his position that Long Beach's collectives law conflicts with federal code that prohibits marijuana sale or use, the city is free to reinstate the regulations permitting tightly supervised collectives.
City Attorney Robert Shannon, however, said that the reversal means the appeal court decision, which was unpublished when the case went for review, is in effect again.
Thus, the city has no power to regulate medical marijuana due to the Pack decision, he said.
The state Supreme Court is considering several cases that will determine the power of cities to ban collectives.
"Until they rule on the right of a municipality to ban medical marijuana collectives, our ban will remain in place," Shannon said.
Carl Kemp, a spokesman for the Long Beach Collective Association, a group of previously city-permitted operators, disagreed with Shannon's analysis.
He pointed to the court's rules of dismissal referenced in Wednesday's order.
"After an order dismissing review, the Court of Appeal opinion remains unpublished unless the Supreme Court orders otherwise," the rule states in part.
The high court's order didn't deem the opinion published.
Shannon said even if the opinion is unpublished, it remains binding on Long Beach but doesn't apply to other cities.