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Court: Feds Cannot Take Punitive Action Against State-Compliant Medical Marijuana Facilities

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director October 21, 2015

    Budgetary provisions enacted by Congress in 2014 forbid the Justice Department from taking action against medical marijuana providers who are operating in compliance with state law, a federal judge for the northern district of California determined earlier this week.

    The ruling, issued by US District Court Judge Charles Breyer, rejects the Justice Department’s ‘tortured’ interpretation of the statute (Section 538 of the Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015) and affirms that the “plain reading” of the law prohibits the federal government from spending funds in a manner that interferes with a state’s ability to authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana. Consequently, the statute forbids the federal government from taking actions that would result in the closure of state-compliant medical cannabis facilities, the Court opined.

    Breyer ruled: “It defies language and logic for the Government to argue that it does not ‘prevent’ California from ‘implementing’ its medical marijuana laws by shutting down these … dispensaries, whether one shuts down one, some, or all. … [C]ontrary to the Government’s representation, the record here does support a finding that Californian’s access to medical marijuana has been substantially impeded by the closing of dispensaries.”

    He added: “[T]he legislative history of Section 538 points in only direction: away from the counter-intuitive and opportunistic meaning the DOJ seeks to ascribe to it now. … [T]he statutory language … is plain on its face [and] the Court must enforce it according to its terms.”

    Breyer’s ruling removes an injunction that had forbidden the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana from operating. The injunction had been in effect since federal officials took action to close down the facility in 2011 as part of a statewide crackdown against dispensary operators.

    Although Section 538 was included as part of a fiscal year 2015 spending bill, the language is expected to be renewed by Congress later this year as part of a FY 2016 appropriations measure.

    10 Responses to “Court: Feds Cannot Take Punitive Action Against State-Compliant Medical Marijuana Facilities”

    1. Dave Evans says:

      Umm, so now the JD police have to follow the law? …And what is their motivation for asked they be allowed to break the law??? It seems quite odd they feel they can break the law so they can go after people following the law. Plainly, these folks are nuts. I suppose they still get to lie to juries though?

    2. Raven says:

      It’s about time we had a federal judge with some sence. At least, we get one federal judge willing to stand up for the rule of law. This is how budget acts, like 538, can have substancial affects on the judiciary. I wonder what “the views of the solicitor general” the DOJ wil submit to SCOTUS given this decision?

    3. Bob Constantine says:

      If the FEDS have no right to interfere with a state regarding marijuana….where does a state get the “right” to interfere with a peaceful individual regarding marijuana or anything for that matter?

    4. Ben says:

      Does this imply that California based operations ‘should be’ protected, or does it effectively apply to other states’ operations?

      Hmmm…

      [Paul Armentano responds: The case in question was specific to a California facility. But the Judge’s interpretation of the statute made it clear that the ‘hands off’ approach called for in the federal statute should apply to all medical states.]

    5. Jonathan Garcia says:

      I think we should just be allowed to grow our own pot

    6. SamSherwood says:

      I just got done smoking a Nick I found under my desk. It’s the first time I’ve felt good in a month. It’s just real depressing knowing I’m out again and won’t have any for a while and that a stupid law is preventing me from enjoying my life and these antidepressants just don’t work worth shit. I wish I had the money to move to Colorado or Washington but I don’t. Maybe there’s pot hope in the East coast too. And maybe it won’t be too long, like 10 years

    7. Julian says:

      All this while the DOJ has a meeting at the white house today over drug policy reform abd the Senate votes on Sentencing Reform that will overturn mandatory minimums and give judges back their discrcretion on drug sentencing.
      Set our marijuana posession prisoners free! Expunge their records and let them have student financial aid!

    8. phrtao says:

      Will this mean that the Feds will no longer harass medical producers and providers? I fear the harassment will continue and then at a later stage ,when the damage is done (customers lost, stock/crops ruined), the legality of the operation will be thrashed out.
      Who will punish federal law enforcement officials?
      How will they be punished ?
      Without a real threat things will not change but it is a step towards slowing down the ‘attacks’.

    9. Anne says:

      thank-you NORML; best regards to all on forum.

    10. FreedomIsOurRight says:

      Well the judge needs to tell Sheriff Mims in Fresno County….Along with California Congressman Devin Nunes. These people don’t care what people vote for…or what law is past….these people want oppression and crime…these people support drug cartels& drug wars…and infringe on every right and freedom that interrupts their money making.

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