California’s cities and counties have a long and growing track record of successfully defending challenges to their land use authority filed on behalf of medical marijuana dispensaries. These successes are largely a product of the broad and deep police power conferred to cities and counties under the California Constitution and the federal government’s inclusion of (and ongoing refusal to remove) marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. Schedule I drugs (including heroin and ecstasy) are defined as drugs with “no currently accepted medical use and a high potential for abuse.” The federal government considers them “the most dangerous drugs of all the drug schedules with potentially severe psychological or physical dependence.”
On June 23, 2016, in Stewart Enterprises, Inc. v. City of Oakland, __ Cal.App.4th __ (2016) (Case No. A143417), the Court of Appeal for the First Appellate District issued an important decision dealing with whether a new legislative enactment may constitutionally deprive a landowner of a vested right conferred by local ordinance. The case arose out of a May 2012 building permit the City of Oakland issued for the construction of a controversial crematorium and the City’s later enactment of an emergency ordinance purporting to require a conditional use permit on new crematoria, including any crematoria that have obtained building permit for which rights to proceed have not yet vested under state law.