Federal Appeals Court Decides Shuttered Marijuana Stores Do Not Violate Federal Rights of the Disabled

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City of Lake Forest, CA Wins Appeal in Case to Close Medical Marijuana Stores

This ruling further solidifies the City’s stance that there is no place for stores which violate federal narcotics laws and city zoning regulations in our community -- Lake Forest City Manager Robert C. Dunek.

On Monday May 21, 2012, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the denial of a request to stop the cities of Lake Forest and Costa Mesa from closing marijuana stores. The Court found there was no violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Case Number: 10-55769 Marla James et al v Cities of Costa Mesa and Lake Forest. In the original decision from April 2011, Federal Judge Andrew Guilford denied a preliminary injunction seeking to prevent Lake Forest from shutting down marijuana stores. In that case, the Plaintiffs unsuccessfully argued that the ADA gives disabled citizens a federally protected right to use medical marijuana. The Court found that the ADA does not apply because marijuana is a Schedule I controlled substance and under the Controlled Substances Act, it currently has no medical purpose.

After reviewing the case, the Federal Appeals Court upheld the denial of the plaintiff’s application for preliminary injunctive relief. The Court found that Title II of the ADA does not protect against discrimination on the basis of marijuana use, even medical marijuana use supervised by a doctor in accordance with state law, unless that use is authorized by federal law. In reaching its decision, the Court highlighted that the ADA defines “illegal drug use” by reference to federal, rather than state, law. Federal law does not authorize marijuana use, regardless of purpose or recommendation. The Court therefore concluded that the plaintiffs’ medical marijuana use is not protected by the ADA.

Since October 2011, Lake Forest has worked with the US Department of Justice to combat the commercial marijuana industry in Lake Forest. “This ruling further solidifies the City’s stance that there is no place for stores which violate federal narcotics laws and city zoning regulations in our community,” said City Manager Robert C. Dunek. "The Ninth Circuit took a careful look at the issue. Federal law prohibits marijuana use and the City's rules are consistent with federal law. No state, county or city can enact laws or ordinances that conflict with federal law," said Jeffrey V. Dunn, Lake Forest’s litigation attorney.

The City has taken no position relative to the use of marijuana for personal medical use by seriously ill individuals where the medical use is deemed appropriate by a physician.

The City of Lake Forest, California, is a suburban community of 78,000 located in south Orange County. Police Services are provided, via contract, by the Orange County Sheriff's Department.

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