When it comes to medical marijuana, there is very large disconnect between what state laws says is legal and what local communities actually allow.
This gap is particularly acute in California. It is frequently an issue in Bay Area drug possession defense cases.
California has the most liberal laws on medical marijuana in the nation. But, according to a recent article in the Washington Post, 185 California cities and counties have banned marijuana dispensaries completely.
This phenomenon is also present in other states across the country where medical marijuana is legal. These include New Jersey, Main, Colorado, Oregon, and others.
Local government officials claim they are concerned about federal law, which they say still contains restrictions on marijuana. But there is also a prejudice against pot that is not necessarily grounded in reality.
For example, local officials may argue that medical marijuana dispensaries could attract crime and become fronts for drug-dealing, or distribute weed to people who have not qualified on the basis of medical need.
These stereotypes about dispensaries often lack supporting evidence. Indeed, the unsupported opposition to medical marijuana raises the risk of withholding it from people who truly need it for medical purposes - and have every right, under state law, to do so.
Cities and towns often use their zoning power to try to restrict the ability of medical marijuana dispensaries to operate. Such ordinances can be used to regulate such things as the permissible distance between a dispensary and public facilities, including schools and parks. The problem is that such regulation can prevent people with legitimate rights to medical marijuana from getting it.
Source: "Local laws around the US thwart medical marijuana, even in states that have blessed it," Washington Post, 1-9-12