U.S. District Judge clears the way for San Francisco's ban on tobacco sales at pharmacies..

September 28, 2008 - Philip Morris USA (PM), the nation's largest tobacco company lost the first round Friday of its federal court bid to block the city of San Francisco's upcoming ban on cigarette sales by pharmacies.

U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken of Oakland late Friday turned down a request by PM for a temporary restraining order (on grounds it violates the company's First Amendment right to free speech, by ending cigarette advertising and displays in stores) that would have blocked the measure from going into effect Wednesday, October 1, 2008> as scheduled.

City lawyers hadn't yet responded to the lawsuit and were planning to file opposition to a temporary restraining order on Monday. But Wilken said in a two-page order that even without the city's opposition, Philip Morris' own papers hadn't shown the combination of likelihood of legal success and danger of irreparable harm needed for a temporary restraining order.Wilken wrote that Philip Morris's "unexplained delay in filing its application for a temporary restraining order until days before the enforcement of the ordinance belies its claim of irreparable harm. Wilken scheduled a hearing on whether to grant a preliminary injunction, the next step in the case, on Oct. 30, and ordered both sides to file further briefs before then.

Deputy City Attorney Vince Chhabria said, "The fact that the judge denied the temporary restraining order request without even receiving our opposition underscores the weakness of the argument that Philip Morris has a First Amendment right to sell cigarettes."

Reference: Judge Denies Philip Morris' Request to Block Pharmacy Ban (Ordinance Enacted By Board Of Supervisors Last Month) , NBC11.com, 9/27/2008.

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