San Diego's Pot Dispensary Ordinance Hit by the CA Supreme Court

The State Supreme Court ruled Monday that the City of San Diego violated the law when it failed to study the environmental impact of cannabis dispensaries. The unanimous decision could have major implications for other local governments on a range of issues.

In 2014, San Diego adopted its medical marijuana ordinance, allowing for medicinal cannabis enterprises in certain parts of the city. It amended zoning codes to do so. The California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) requires impact studies be conducted for “projects” that could negatively impact residents. Because San Diego did not legally consider this a “project,” no reviews were conducted.

San Diego was challenged on that decision and a trial court sided with the city. The court of appeal affirmed. The Supreme Court has now reversed that ruling, holding that “the City erred in determining that the adoption of the Ordinance was not a project” and that it had an obligation to abide by CEQA rules.

“It is a precedent-setting ruling,” Murtaza Baxamusa of the San Diego Building and Construction Trades union told KTLA. “Cities are essentially classifying entire city actions as categorically exempt without looking at whether there are any indirect, foreseeable impacts. The court said the impacts could be negligible, but the fact that the city didn’t even look at it is a problem.”

The plaintiffs’ lawyer, Jamie Thomas Hall, said it would force those cities that don’t allow commercial or medical cannabis to reconsider the process before welcoming any pot businesses.

It is unclear how the decision will affect San Diego’s 23 approved dispensaries.

Read the Supreme Court’s decision here