A California school district has sued the local city government, saying city officials failed to stop illegal medical marijuana dispensaries from opening near schools.

Compton City HallThe Compton Unified School District filed the lawsuit against the City of Compton in state court April 1. The suit followed a letter by the school board threatening legal action unless the city drove away the cannabis dispensaries.

The city passed an ordinance in 2007 that banned all medical marijuana shops in Compton. But school officials say at least a dozen dispensaries are open for business, including some located near schools.

“We’re standing in the front of an illegal marijuana dispensary, which is less than 500 feet away from Davis Middle School,” said Micah Ali, the school board’s president. “That is clearly unacceptable.”

Threat to young students

California state law prohibits collectives from operating within 600 feet of schools. Ali said the shops pose a threat to young students who must walk by them on their way to and from school.

“If we’re going to be serious about the business of educating children, then we should be serious about the business of providing protection and safety,” he said. “The city should move expeditiously to close down these illegal medical marijuana dispensaries.”

Illegal shops currently under investigation

For their part, Compton officials said they face a difficult task in trying to shutter the illegal dispensaries. The city is investigating several allegedly illegal shops and is closing them when it can.

“We are very concerned about it, very concerned, and we are devoting resources to tackle this issue,” said City Attorney Craig Cornwell. “There are various remedies, both criminal and civil. The issue is whether they come back and how to maintain the local shutdown, and that’s been a challenge.”

Cornwell said he was surprised at the lawsuit but pledged to work with the school district to eliminate illegal shops. Of course, another way to address the problem is to enact ordinances allowing a reasonable number of tightly-regulated cannabis stores and use those laws to shut down the illicit businesses.

marijuana leafThe problem is widespread

The same dilemma has faced countless communities throughout California. State law allows medical marijuana, but hundreds of municipal governments have banned collectives. Most of those bans have had little effect, as new stores open almost as soon as old stores are closed.

Of course, the real solution to the problem is likely to arrive in 2016. That year the state’s voters are widely expected to pass a ballot initiative legalizing recreational marijuana. These reforms would immediately end the problem of poorly-regulated medicinal dispensaries by replacing them with tightly-regulated recreational cannabis shops.

state marijuana laws