The Next Zoning Battleground: Trends and Challenges in Local Regulation of Medical Marijuana

Zoning Practice — July 2011

By Deborah Rosenthal, Alfred Fraijo, Jr.


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Many states and the District of Columbia currently allow the private possession of small quantities of marijuana for medical use. State statutes decriminalizing marijuana for medical purposes typically do not govern marijuana cultivation, processing, distribution, and sale. This task is left to individual jurisdictions under the police power, specifically their zoning and business licensing authority.

In response to this regulatory vacuum at the state level, local governments have responded with an almost staggering variety of ordinances and regulations over the past few years. Local land-use approaches range from total exclusion to standard zoning and business permitting systems.

This issue of Zoning Practice reviews the most common regulatory issues, emerging trends, and judicial challenges to regulations adopted by local governments in response to state law changes permitting possession of medical marijuana.


Date Published
July 1, 2011
Adobe PDF
American Planning Association

About the Authors

Deborah Rosenthal
Deborah M. Rosenthal, FAICP, is a partner in the law firm of FitzGerald, Yap, & Kreditor. She has over 25 years of experience representing clients throughout California in Real Estate, Land Use, Natural Resources and Environmental matters, including representation of private real estate developers involved in the equitable balancing of affordability, job creation, and environmental protection concerns. Immediately before admission to the California bar, Deborah served as Executive Director of the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois. In this capacity, she was responsible for supervising statewide preservation-advocacy programs. Prior to attending Yale Law School, Deborah acted as a special consultant to the National Trust for Historic Preservation on selected planning issues in Oklahoma and provided special media services to the Oklahoma Humanities Council and the Oklahoma Council for the Social Studies.

Alfred Fraijo, Jr.