A coalition of California local governments is suing the state's top marijuana regulator for legalizing the home delivery of recreational cannabis.
On Thursday, 24 cities and Santa Cruz County filed a lawsuit against the Bureau of Cannabis Control (BCC), alleging that the BCC's decision in July 2018 to allow for door-to-door pot delivery statewide violated Prop. 64, California's legalization ballot initiative.
That measure, passed in November 2016, ended marijuana prohibition but left local governments with wide discretion over how to regulate the newly legal industry. That includes the power to ban recreational cannabis businesses outright, something 80 percent of California's 482 municipalities have done, according to the Los Angeles Times.
The dispute over home delivery pits the power of these local governments against those citizens who, having been deprived of nearby brick-and-motor stores, depend on delivery services for ready access to marijuana.
"The negative impact delivery bans would have on the industry and the state cannot be understated," Josh Drayton of the California Cannabis Industry Association tells the Los Angeles Times, warning that a ban on deliveries would force users "into the illicit market."
Opponents of home marijuana delivery argue that when Prop. 64 let local governments ban marijuana-related businesses, that naturally included marijuana delivery businesses. Their lawsuit also points to a failed bill last year that would have kept local governments from prohibiting home marijuana deliveries, saying this is evidence that existing law gives local governments that power.
Supporters of home delivery point out that Prop. 64 did not let local governments ban the transportation of marijuana through their jurisdictions. A law passed by the California legislature further establishes that "a local jurisdiction shall not prevent delivery of cannabis or cannabis products on public roads."
The lawsuit argues that even if cities can't regulate deliveries on public roads, they still have the power to pass rules on what happens at private addresses.
As a matter of what the law says, the cities suing the BCC may have a point about the state overreaching. As a matter of what would be good policy, the justification for limiting home deliveries is remarkably weak.
For all the problems with banning a physical weed store, it at least targets something that anti-cannabis people can see and be offended by. A ban on home delivery, by contrast, targets behavior that is almost entirely undetectable. It basically limits what cannabis consumers can do in their own home, which undermines the whole purpose of repealing the state's marijuana prohibition in the first place.
At best, these bans will only force consumers to drive to the next town over to purchase marijuana. More likely, it will just mean more consumers continue to rely on an untaxed, unregulated black market. That might not trouble libertarians, but it cuts against the stated goals of home delivery opponents, who justify their bans by saying they want to prevent the criminal activity that will come along with any commercial cannabis activity.
The lawsuit will take a while to wind through the courts. In the meantime, California potheads might want to order as much home-delivery weed as they can.