In the first significant challenge to California’s open cannabis market, 24 cities that restrict pot sales sued Gov. Gavin Newsom’s administration Thursday, arguing that by allowing home deliveries in their city limits, the state is violating 2016’s Proposition 64, which legalized recreational marijuana.
The lawsuit, which was filed in Fresno County Superior Court against the California Bureau of Cannabis Control and its chief, Lori Ajax, comes in response to a regulation adopted by the agency in January that permits state-licensed firms to deliver cannabis in cities that have banned pot shops. Officials from cities with prohibitions on pot sales objected to the rules, voicing concerns that home deliveries of cannabis would lead to robberies of cash-laden vans and an influx of illegal sellers blending in with licensed delivery fleets.
To avoid opposition from city leaders and police chiefs, backers of Proposition 64 offered assurances in 2016 that the measure would preserve local control of pot sales. The lawsuit notes that the measure’s introduction said that it “safeguards local control, allowing local governments to regulate marijuana-related activities…”
The cities behind the suit contend that the bureau lacks legal authority to allow deliveries in conflict with local ordinances because Proposition 64 and a law signed by then-Gov. Jerry Brown guarantee local governments veto power over pot sales in their jurisdictions.
“We don’t want deliveries in our city because of the concern over criminal activity,” said Walter Allen III, a city councilman in Covina and retired police officer. “The problem we have is the state has taken it upon itself to bypass Proposition 64 and supersede our local ordinances, and we are really upset about that.”
Plaintiffs including the cities of Covina, Downey, Riverside and Beverly Hills are among the 80% of California’s 482 municipalities that have banned stores selling cannabis for recreational purposes. Other cities that have joined the lawsuit allow retail stores but want to ensure that only businesses they have screened and licensed are able to make home deliveries within their city limits.