Published to JD Supra

Below are summaries of the key California and Ninth Circuit land use and development cases decided in 2020. Each case name is linked to our more extensive discussion of the case on the Land Use & Development Law Report.

1.  Planning and Zoning

53 Cal. App. 5th 1 (2020)

The court of appeal held that the County of Santa Cruz was required to return approximately 2,000 medical marijuana plants seized from a dispensary. Local law enforcement had seized the plants due to a violation of a county zoning ordinance that prohibits cultivation of over 99 medical marijuana plants. The court reasoned that the plants were not subject to seizure because the local zoning ordinance did not change the legal status of medical marijuana under state law. Because medical marijuana is not contraband in California, and local governments are bound by state law, local governments cannot withhold legally possessed marijuana plants.


4.  Initiative And Referendum

46 Cal. App. 5th 82 (2020)

The County brought a nuisance action against marijuana dispensaries pursuant to a 2016 moratorium on new medical marijuana dispensaries and a 2017 ordinance declaring the operation of marijuana dispensaries a public nuisance. Defendants argued that the 2016 and 2017 ordinances violated the Elections Code by reenacting essential features of a 2011 ordinance repealed via referendum. The court held that a county board could reenact the essential features of an ordinance repealed via referendum following a reasonable period of time provided that a material change in circumstances had occurred. The court determined that the increased amount of County resources spent on new dispensaries; information about the negative effects of legalization in Colorado, including increased traffic incidents and hospitalizations; and the adoption of Proposition 64 and the Medical and Adult-Use Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act of 2017 collectively constituted a material change in circumstances. Accordingly, the County’s reenactment of essential features of the 2011 ordinance repealed via referendum did not violate the Elections Code.

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