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Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition Foundation v. Town of Smithfield

Superior Court of Rhode Island, Providence

September 27, 2017

RHODE ISLAND PATIENT ADVOCACY COALITION FOUNDATION (RIPAC) d/b/a RIPAC; JANE DOE, I; JANE DOE, II, Plaintiffs,
v.
TOWN OF SMITHFIELD, Defendant.

          For Plaintiff: John D. Meara, Esq. Carl A. Chiulli, Esq. Matthew R. Plain, Esq.

          For Defendant: Edmund L. Alves, Esq. Marc Desisto, Esq.

          DECISION

          LICHT, J.

         Before the Court is Plaintiffs' request to enjoin the Defendant Town of Smithfield from enforcing an amendment to its zoning ordinance concerning medical marijuana. Jurisdiction is pursuant to G.L. 1956 § 8-2-13.

         I

         Facts and Travel

         On April 18, 2017, the Town of Smithfield (the Town) unanimously adopted an ordinance (the Ordinance) amending the Town's zoning ordinance. The Ordinance's stated purpose is "to regulate the cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana." Zoning Ordinance Amendment § 1(B). The Ordinance is relatively comprehensive, addressing patient cultivation, caregiver cultivation, cooperative cultivation, and compassion centers. Broadly speaking, the Ordinance restricts who can grow marijuana, where and how it can be grown, and creates a licensing procedure for potential growers.

         Individual pseudonymous plaintiffs Jane Doe I and II (together, the Does) are residents of Smithfield and medical marijuana patient cardholders licensed under The Edward O. Hawkins and Thomas C. Slater Medical Marijuana Act (the Hawkins-Slater Act), G.L. 1956 §§ 21-28.6-1 et seq. Doe Affs. ¶¶ 1, 3. They are also members of organizational plaintiff Rhode Island Patient Advocacy Coalition (RIPAC). Compl. ¶ 33. RIPAC and the Does (together, Plaintiffs) challenge the Ordinance and seek both declaratory and injunctive relief from this Court, claiming the Ordinance tramples upon the protections and rights afforded the Does by the Hawkins-Slater Act. The Town responds by claiming that the Plaintiffs lack standing, and even if their standing is established, that Plaintiffs have not met the burden of showing they are entitled to a preliminary injunction.

         II

         Standard of Review

         This Court can only issue a preliminary injunction when the moving party

"(1) has a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits, (2) will suffer irreparable harm without the requested injunctive relief, (3) has the balance of the equities, including the possible hardships to each party and to the public interest, tip in its favor, and (4) has shown that the issuance of a preliminary injunction will preserve the status quo." Iggy's Doughboys, Inc. v. Giroux, 729 A.2d 701, 705 (R.I. 1999)

         "The issuance and measure of injunctive relief rest in the sound discretion of the trial justice." Cullen v. Tarini, 15 A.3d 968, 981 (R.I. 2011).

         III

         Analysis

         A

         Threshold Issues

         The Town has raised several issues that could preclude Plaintiffs from filing this suit in the first place. As a result, the Court must first determine whether Plaintiffs are stymied by a lack of a private right of action or by lack of standing.[1]

         1

         Private Right of Action

         The Town argues that the Does are barred from bringing this suit because they already have a remedy-if cited under the Ordinance, the Does "may demand an evidentiary hearing, pursuant to . . . § 21-28.6-8(b) and gain a dismissal of the charge . . ." Def.'s Mem. 8. According to the Town, "[s]ince Plaintiffs have a remedy, the Court may not imply a further remedy not set forth in the [Hawkins-Slater] Act." Id. However, the Plaintiffs have not brought their Complaint under the Hawkins-Slater Act-they have brought it under the Uniform Declaratory Judgments Act (UDJA), G.L. 1956 §§ 9-30-1 et seq.[2] The UDJA vests the Superior Court with the authority to "determine[] any question of construction or validity" of a municipal ordinance for any person "whose rights, status, or other legal relations are affected . . ." Sec. 9-30-2; see also Canario v. Culhane, 752 A.2d 476, 479 (R.I. 2000).

         2

...


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