CENTENNIAL — An Arapahoe County judge today barred the city of Centennial from shutting down a medical marijuana dispensary, saying that the city had no right to use federal law as a pretext for doing so.
"The city of Centennial cannot use the potential violation of a federal law to order a business legally operating under our state constitution to cease and desist its business," District Court judge Christopher Cross said.
The ruling could have broad implications for medical marijuana regulation in Colorado.
The rationale Centennial used in forcing the dispensary to shut down — that, because the business distributed marijuana contrary to federal law, it was in violation of the city's land use code — is one also adopted by a number of other local governments to block dispensaries from opening in their communities, including Aurora, Castle Rock and Greenwood Village. The attorney for a dispensary in Castle Rock that had its business license partially revoked on similar grounds said she would use today's ruling to seek that action's reversal.
Cross's ruling resulted in a preliminary injunction against Centennial from enforcing its cease and desist order to the dispensary, CannaMart. The broader issue, such as whether Cross's injunction should be permanent and his ruling become part of case law, is still yet to be decided at trial, a process that could take years to resolve.
Cross acknowledged in his ruling — announced from the bench this afternoon — that the legal issues surrounding medical marijuana and the operation of dispensaries in Colorado are still very much in flux. Cross called the case one of "first impression," with very few prior cases in Colorado or around the country providing much guidance on how to reach a decision.
"This is a very complex puzzle as everyone knows," Cross said. "There are many interrelated and contradictory pieces to that puzzle."
"No one knows what the law is," Cross added later.
Immediately after the ruling, CannaMart's owners, lawyers and a handful of patients listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit exchange hugs. Outside the courtroom, patient Shannon Mosher, who suffers from multiple medical problems that cause him severe pain, said he was proud to represent patients across Colorado in the matter.
"It's a big, ground-breaking moment," Mosher said. "It's a big deal."