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James v. City of Costa Mesa

April 30, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: The Honorable Andrew J. Guilford


Lisa Bredahl Not Present Deputy Clerk Court Reporter / Recorder Tape No. Attorneys Present for Plaintiffs: Attorneys Present for Defendants:


Issues relating to medical marijuana are a focus in today's culture. These issues have engrossed our citizens, scholars, and officials in many debates. Should California let seriously ill citizens use marijuana to ease their pain? See Cal. Health & Safety Code § 11362.5 (codifying Proposition 215, also known as the Compassionate Use Act, where California's citizens answered "yes"). May Congress ban private consumption of medical marijuana? See Gonzales v. Raich, 545 U.S. 1 (2005) (answering "yes"). Should federal agencies vigorously enforce this ban against persons using marijuana in compliance with state law? See Memorandum from Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden to Selected United States Attorneys (October 19, 2009) (answering "no," and stating that "prosecution of individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses who use marijuana as part of a recommended treatment regimen consistent with applicable state law... is unlikely to be an efficient use of limited federal resources."), available at

The record and arguments in this case stimulate thoughts on many other questions concerning medical marijuana, the rights of the seriously ill, and the interplay between federal, state, and municipal law. Were our federal statutes written differently, the Court would have the chance to contribute to the growing body of scholarship on these questions. But the Court's analysis today is limited to a narrow issue of statutory interpretation.

Plaintiffs Marla James, Wayne Washington, James Armantrout, and Charles Daniel DeJong (collectively "Plaintiffs") seek to prevent Defendant City of Costa Mesa and Defendant City of Lake Forest (collectively "Defendants") from shutting down medical marijuana collectives. Plaintiffs filed a motion for a preliminary injunction ("Motion"). In the Motion, Plaintiffs argue that the Americans with Disabilities Act ("ADA") gives disabled citizens a federally protected right to use medical marijuana if such use is legal under state law and done with appropriate supervision. They then argue that they will suffer irreparable harm absent a preliminary injunction, and that the balance of equities and the public interest weigh in favor of a preliminary injunction.

After considering all papers and arguments submitted, the Court finds that the text of the ADA is dispositive. Plaintiffs' argument under the ADA fails, so the Court DENIES the Motion without reaching issues of irreparable harm, the balance of the equities, or the public interest.


Defendant City of Costa Mesa has submitted numerous evidentiary objections. In motions with numerous objections, "it is often unnecessary and impractical for a court to methodically scrutinize each objection and give a full analysis of each argument raised." Doe v. Starbucks, Inc., No. SACV 08-0582 AG (CWx), 2009 WL 5183773, at *1 (C.D. Cal. Dec. 18, 2009). This is especially true where, as here, "many of the objections are boilerplate recitations of evidentiary principles or blanket objections without analysis applied to specific items of evidence." Id.

Here, the Court's analysis does not rely on most of the evidence under objection. Further, a district court "may give even inadmissible evidence some weight when to do so serves the purpose of preventing irreparable harm before trial." Flynt Distrib. Co., Inc. v. Harvey, 734 F.2d 1389, 1394 (9th Cir. 1984). Accordingly, the objections are OVERRULED, and the evidence submitted shall be given its due weight for the purposes of this Motion.


Plaintiffs are disabled individuals living in various cities of Orange County. (Compl. ¶¶ 3-5.) They have recommendations from their doctors to use medical marijuana. (Compl. ¶¶ 3-5.) Marijuana gives Plaintiffs "a measure of relief [from] the condition[s] that limit" major life activities. (Declaration of Marla James ("James Decl.") ¶ 12.)

To acquire their medical marijuana, Plaintiffs are members of marijuana collectives in Costa Mesa and Lake Forest. (James Decl. ¶ 9, Declaration of Wayne Washington ("Washington Decl.") ¶ 9, Declaration of James Armantrout ("Armantrout Decl.") ¶ 9, Declaration of Charles Daniel DeJong ("DeJong Decl.") ¶ 9). Plaintiffs are physically incapable of growing marijuana on their own. (Compl. ¶ 7.)

Defendants have taken actions prohibiting medical marijuana distribution within city limits. Defendant City of Costa Mesa passed Ordinance 05-11 that "prohibit[s] medical marijuana dispensaries in order to promote the health, safety, morals, and general welfare of the residents and businesses...." This ordinance zoned out all marijuana dispensaries. Costa Mesa Municipal Code ยงยง 13-6, 13-30. Throughout March, Plaintiffs allege that Defendant Costa Mesa issued "48-hour Cease and Desist Orders." ...

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