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Legalize It?

California Supreme Court Hears Medical Marijuana Challenge at USF School of Law


The state's high court heard arguments at the USF School of Law about California's controversial legalization of medical marijuana.

The California Supreme Court held a special session at the University of San Francisco on Feb. 5 to hear arguments on one of the most controversial issues facing the state: the legalization of medical marijuana.

The state's highest court convened at the USF School of Law as part of celebrations for the school's 100th anniversary.

Who regulates?

The case could decide if California cities have the right to prohibit the cultivation, possession, and sale of medical marijuana by dispensaries. The state argues that cities do not have that right, and has banned the prosecution of anyone who uses pot for medical reasons with a doctor's prescription. 

Find out more
background on the day's cases and a complete schedule of the California Supreme Court's special session at USF.

Watch video of the sessions on YouTube:
Morning session
Afternoon session

The case, City of Riverside v. Inland Empire Patient's Health and Wellness Center, Inc., was brought after Riverside tried to shut down that city's medical marijuana dispensaries using zoning laws that labeled them a nuisance.

"In the Riverside case, the state's highest court will be asked to determine whether the state laws protecting medical marijuana preempt local laws that ban or regulate marijuana dispensaries," said Julie Nice, USF Herbst Foundation professor of law and an expert in constitutional law.

Attorneys on both sides will likely center their arguments on whether the state intended to stop localities from banning dispensaries when it exempted medical marijuana use from state prosecution, Nice said. The court usually announces its decision within 90 days of the hearing.

Showdown on the horizon

No matter what the decision in California, a showdown looms between the federal government and the growing number of states that have legalized the drug. The federal government argues that its authority trumps state laws that legalize pot.  

The California Supreme Court will hear two additional cases during its daylong session on the USF campus: People v. Clancy (Wesley Cian), about whether the actions of a trial court judge constituted an unlawful plea bargain; and People v. Williams (George Brett), an automatic appeal of a death penalty sentence.

USF law students and area high school students will take part in a question and answer session with members of the court beginning at 10:30 a.m.-before the first case, City of Riverside. 

Written by Edward Carpenter »email usfnews@usfca.edu | Twitter @usfcanews