California, cities battle over marijuana home-delivery rule

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FILE - This May 11, 2017, file photo shows Andre Shavers, who runs a marijuana delivery business, on a street in Oakland, Calif. California faced off in court Thursday, Aug. 6, 2020, against some of its own cities that want to overturn a government rule allowing home marijuana deliveries statewide, even into communities that banned commercial pot sales. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File)

FRESNO, Calif. – California faced off in court Thursday against some of its own cities that want to overturn a government rule allowing home marijuana deliveries statewide, even into communities that banned commercial pot sales.

In a potential setback for at least some of the cities, the judge tentatively sided with the state in questioning whether some of the communities have standing to bring legal action, because they do not have local ordinances in place that conflict with the state regulation.

Without that, “there is no dispute,” Fresno Superior Court Judge Rosemary McGuire wrote in a tentative ruling.

The dispute between the state and 25 of its local governments raises a foundational question in the legal marijuana economy: Who is in charge, the state bureaucracy that oversees the marketplace, or local governments where pot is grown and sold?

The local governments — Beverly Hills, Riverside, Santa Cruz County and 22 other cities — filed the lawsuit in April 2019, asking the court to invalidate the home-delivery rule that “permits commercial cannabis deliveries to any physical address in the state.”

The League of California Cities and police chiefs had complained that unrestricted home deliveries would create a chaotic market of largely hidden pot transactions, while undercutting local control guaranteed in the 2016 law that broadly legalized marijuana sales in the state.

Marijuana companies and consumers had pushed for home deliveries because vast stretches of the state have banned commercial pot activity or not set up rules to allow legal sales, creating what’s been called cannabis “deserts.” Residents in those areas are effectively cut off from legal marijuana purchases.

Nothing will be decided soon. The next hearing in the case was scheduled for mid-November.