Sonora and Angels Camp are two of 25 cities and counties in California that have jointly filed a lawsuit against the state Bureau of Cannabis Control aimed at overturning a new regulation that allows delivery sales of commercial marijuana even in places where it’s banned.

All of the plaintiffs are being represented by Churchwell White, a Sacramento law firm that provides legal services to both Sonora and Angels Camp under contract. The lawsuit was filed Friday in Fresno County Superior Court.

City Administrator Tim Miller said the city has provided an initial deposit of $5,000 for legal representation in the lawsuit, though he added that there may be more charges.

Miller referred to the following statement in the press release when asked for comment on why it was important for the city to join the lawsuit:

“Respecting the wishes of the community, the Sonora City Council took a very cautious and deliberate approach when allowing cannabis sales in the city. Through a pilot program, only medical cannabis dispensaries are allowed in limited numbers and locations. This regulation circumvents the city’s process, violates our local ordinance threatening public health and safety, and is contrary to the local control guaranteed by Proposition 64.”

The council approved a three-year pilot program in January 2018 allowing a limited number of marijuana dispensaries that sell only to people with a valid doctor’s recommendation for the drug, in addition to manufacturing and testing facilities.

Hazy Bulldog Farms at 1243 Mono Way is the only dispensary that has opened within the city limits as part of the program so far, but Miller has said another is going through the process.

On Feb. 11, the council voted 5-0 in closed session to sue the state over a new regulation that allows state-licensed delivery services to sell recreational or medical marijuana anywhere in any county or city regardless of local ordinances.

One of the council’s concerns was that the new state regulation could put the city-permitted dispensaries at a competitive disadvantage, which was one of the reasons it voted at the same meeting to impose a 15 percent sales tax on delivery services.

The lawsuit argues that the regulation violated promises made to voters who passed Proposition 64 in November 2016, which was approved by 56 percent of voters in the city.

According to the press release, the Legislative Analyst Office’s official summary of the proposition before the election stated, “Cities and counties could also completely ban marijuana-related businesses,” and that proponents stated in ballot arguments that it “preserves local control.”

The county bans all marijuana sales and commercial cultivation in the unincorporated area outside of the city limits.

Other local governments that have joined in the lawsuit with Sonora and Angels Camp are Santa Cruz County and the cities of Agoura HIlls, Arcadia, Atwater, Beverly Hills, Ceres, Clovis, Covina, Dixon, Downey, McFarland, Newman, Oakdale, Palmdale, Patterson, Riverbank, Riverside, San Pablo, Tehachapi, Temecula, Tracy, Turlock, and Vacaville.

Contact Alex MacLean at amaclean@uniondemocrat.com or (209) 588-4530.

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