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California Cannabis Coalition v. City of Upland

Supreme Court of California

August 28, 2017, Filed



 [***214]  [**53]   CUÉLLAR, J.—Here we consider the interplay of two constitutional provisions. First, sections 8 and 11 of article II of the state Constitution contain the people's initiative power, which we have described as “‘one of the most precious rights of our democratic process.’” (Associated Home Builders etc., Inc. v. City of Livermore (1976) 18 Cal.3d 582, 591 [135 Cal. Rptr. 41, 557 P.2d 473] (Associated Home Builders); Cal. Const., art. II (article II), §§ 8 [statewide power], 11 [local power].) Second, article XIII C—added by one of several successful initiative constitutional amendments concerning taxation—limits the ability of “local governments … to impose, extend, or increase any general tax.” (Cal. Const., art. XIII C (article XIII C), § 2, subd. (b), added by initiative, Gen. Elec. (Nov. 5, 1996), commonly known as Prop. 218; see Greene v. Marin County Flood Control & Water Conservation Dist. (2010) 49 Cal.4th 277, 284–285 [109 Cal. Rptr. 3d 620, 231 P.3d 350] (Greene) [summarizing the purpose of Prop. 218].)

The question before us is whether [****3]  article XIII C also restricts the ability of voters to impose taxes via initiative. The Court of Appeal here concluded that article XIII C does not constrain voters' constitutional power to propose and [*931]  adopt initiatives, and that under article II, section 11 and Elections Code section 9214, 1 the initiative at issue should be submitted to the voters at a special election, not at a  [***215]  general election, as article XIII C would require. In light of the text and other indicia of the purpose associated with the relevant constitutional and statutory provisions, we agree with the Court of Appeal that article XIII C does not limit voters' “power to raise taxes by statutory initiative.” (Kennedy Wholesale, Inc. v. State Bd. of Equalization (1991) 53 Cal.3d 245, 251 [279 Cal. Rptr. 325, 806 P.2d 1360] (Kennedy Wholesale) [reaching the same conclusion with regard to article XIII A of the state Constitution].) A contrary conclusion would require an unreasonably broad construction of the term “local government” at the expense of the people's constitutional right to direct democracy, undermining our longstanding and consistent view that courts should protect and liberally construe it. (E.g., Associated Home Builders, supra, 18 Cal.3d at p. 591.) As Ulysses once tied himself to the mast so he could resist the Sirens' tempting song (Homer, “The Odyssey,” book XII), voters too can conceivably make the clear and important choice to bind themselves by making [****4]  it more difficult to enact initiatives in the future. The electorate made no such clear choice to tie itself to the mast here. Without a direct reference in the text of a provision—or a similarly clear, unambiguous indication that it was within the ambit of a provision's purpose to constrain the people's initiative power—we will not construe a provision as imposing such a limitation. (See Kennedy Wholesale, at p. 252.) We therefore affirm the Court of Appeal's judgment.

The California Cannabis Coalition is a nonprofit corporation that drafted the medical marijuana initiative at issue here in 2014. 2 The initiative proposed to repeal an existing City of Upland (City) ordinance banning medical marijuana dispensaries; to adopt regulations permitting and establishing standards for the operation of up to three dispensaries within the City; and to require that each dispensary pay the City an “annual Licensing and Inspection fee” in the amount of $ 75,000.

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3 Cal. 5th 924 *; 401 P.3d 49 **; 222 Cal. Rptr. 3d 210 ***; 2017 Cal. LEXIS 6766 ****

CALIFORNIA CANNABIS COALITION et al., Plaintiffs and Appellants, v. CITY OF UPLAND et al., Defendants and Respondents.

Notice: As modified Nov. 1, 2017.

Subsequent History: Reported at Cal. Cannabis Coalition v. City of Upland, 2017 Cal. LEXIS 7545 (Cal., Aug. 28, 2017)

Time for Granting or Denying Rehearing Extended California Cannabis Coalition v. City of Upland, 2017 Cal. LEXIS 7326 (Cal., Sept. 12, 2017)

Modified and rehearing denied by California Cannabis Coalition v. City of Upland, 2017 Cal. LEXIS 8444 (Cal., Nov. 1, 2017)

Modified and rehearing denied by California Cannabis Coalition v. City of Upland, 2017 Cal. LEXIS 8634 (Cal., Nov. 1, 2017)

Prior History:  [****1] Superior Court of San Bernardino County, No. CIVDS1503985, David Cohn, Judge. Court of Appeal, Fourt Appellate District, Division Two, No. E063664.

California Cannabis Coalition v. City of Upland, 245 Cal. App. 4th 970, 199 Cal. Rptr. 3d 805, 2016 Cal. App. LEXIS 208 (Cal. App. 4th Dist., Mar. 18, 2016)


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Constitutional Law, State Constitutional Operation, Governments, Legislation, Initiative & Referendum, Interpretation, Local Governments, Elections, Finance, Duties & Powers, Expiration, Repeal & Suspension