Riverside Sues to Block Vote on Regulating Medical Marijuana

David Downs, East Bay Express

Citizens of Riverside attempting to regulate dispensaries at the ballot box are facing off against an old foe — their own city council.

The City of Riverside has a total ban on all medical marijuana collectives operating in retail storefronts, so Riverside Safe Access gathered enough signatures to put dispensary regulations before a vote of the people.

But the city Council doesn’t want that vote to happen. The Riverside Press Enterprise reported  on Monday that the city council sued its own registrar June 4 as a way of blocking direct democracy. The council contends that regulating medical marijuana dispensaries — as dozens of California cities already have done — would violate federal law.

The conservative, inland town east of Los Angeles has long-been a battleground for medical cannabis advocates. In 2013, the city took its ban all the way to the California Supreme Court, which affirmed a city’s right to cut off access to the voter-approved drug, saying Prop 215 grants patients no rights to access pot. Tens of thousands of medical cannabis patients have been cut off in the wake of the decision, an East Bay Express investigation revealed.

"According to a 1,000-patient survey conducted by Oakland-based advocacy group Americans for Safe Access this year, one in four medical cannabis patients reported that they have driven fifty miles or more to buy pot. One out of ten said they have driven two hundred miles or more. About half of the respondents — 46 percent — reported that they have gone without cannabis at times because they couldn't buy it easily, and of those, nearly one in five — 18 percent — said they have done so for more than a month at a time."

A record 86 percent of Americans support access to medicinal cannabis.