Despite --including a dispensary in Murrieta--the courts may decide whether the federal action is legal.
Americans for Safe Access, the country's largest medical marijuana advocacy organization, filed suit in federal court Thursday challenging the Obama Administration's attempt to subvert local and state medical marijuana laws in California.
ASA argues in its lawsuit that the Justice Department has "instituted a policy to dismantle the medical marijuana laws of the State of California and to coerce its municipalities to pass bans on medical marijuana dispensaries."
In Riverside County, medical marijuana dispensaries are banned. Murrieta, Lake Elsinore, Temecula and Wildomar have also banned them. The only city in the county to allow dispensaries is Palm Springs.
While Murrieta's ban on dispensaries has been in place since 2005, City Council unanimously on them.
The moratorium comes after a dispensary, CMG Outreach, opened in July in Murrieta despite the municipal ban. The dispensary has been shut down twice by court order, and faced daily code enforcement fines while in operation.
According to a city staff report, "cities and counties are awaiting additional pending appellate court decisions which may further guide local jurisdictions on their authority with regard to medical marijuana storefront dispensaries."
In the lawsuit filed Thursday, which could further convolute the issue, ASA accuses the Obama Administration of commandeering California's legislative function and interfering with local laws.
The legal action, however, stops short of challenging the federal government's authority to adopt and enforce federal marijuana laws.
"It is, rather, the ... misuse of the government's Commerce Clause powers, designed to deprive the State of its sovereign ability to chart a separate course, that forms the basis of plaintiff's claims," the lawsuit states.
"Although the Obama Administration is entitled to enforce federal marijuana laws, the 10th Amendment forbids it from using coercive tactics to commandeer the law-making functions of the State," said ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford, who filed the lawsuit Thursday in San Francisco's federal District Court.
"This case is aimed at restoring California's sovereign and constitutional right to establish its own public health laws based on this country's federalist principles," Elford said.
On Oct. 7, California's four U.S. Attorneys announced in a joint press conference that the DOJ would overstep the State's medical marijuana laws and take enforcement action against marijuana producers and distributors as well as their landlords. Operators were given 45 days to close shop.
The ASA lawsuit, which seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, was filed on behalf of its 20,000 members in California.
Last week, State Attorney General Kamala Harris renounced the federal government’s tactics, claiming that "an overly broad federal enforcement campaign will make it more difficult for legitimate patients to access physician-recommended medicine."
As California's legal tangle over medical marijuana continues, legislation was introduced this summer to remove cannabis from the schedules of controlled substances.
Introduced June 23, HR 2306--otherwise known as the Ending Federal Prohibition of Marijuana Act--is sponsored by Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank and Texas Republican Ron Paul along with others.
Maggie Avants contributed to this report.