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Federal Court of Appeals Upholds Ban on Prosecuting State-Compliant Medical Marijuana Businesses

  • by Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel August 17, 2016

    Medical marijuanaA three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, covering nine western states, earlier this week ruled unanimously that the Department of Justice is barred by federal law from prosecuting medical marijuana businesses if those businesses are operating in compliance with state law.

    This decision came in an appeal in which the court had consolidated ten different cases from California and Washington, in which the defendants — growers and dispensaries — had argued that their federal indictments should be dismissed because of a current ban, enacted by Congress in 2014, on the use of federal funds to prosecute state-compliant medical marijuana activities. Known as the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, the language of the enactment said federal funds could not be used to prevent states from “implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

    The Department of Justice had argued the ban only precluded their interference with the state governments, and did not ban federal prosecutions against individual defendants. The Court of Appeals rejected this argument, and remanded the cases back to the US District Courts for an evidentiary hearing to determine if the individual defendants had in fact acted in compliance with their state medical marijuana laws.

    Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain, writing for the panel, did warn in his opinion that Congress could restore funding to prosecute these cases “tomorrow, a year from now, or four years from now, and the government could then prosecute individuals who committed offenses while the government lacked funding.”

    9 Responses to “Federal Court of Appeals Upholds Ban on Prosecuting State-Compliant Medical Marijuana Businesses”

    1. Julian says:

      Ok, great news, but before people get all exited that the federal courts are going to save us, keep in mind it was a successful bipartisan push from Congress in the Rorhabacher-Farr Amendment. The warning that that could be reversed by a future Congress by Judge O’Scannlain must not be taken lightly leading up to elections this year.
      http://Www.norml.org/congressional/scorecard

      And as John Hudak, senior fellow in governance at the Brookings Institute quoted days ago on The Source, http://www.tpr.org, “The President cannot de or reschedule cannabis by executive order.” The CSAct clearly mandates this authority to the HHS, DEA and FDA, not to mention the monopoly that NIDA still has with the government farm at the University of Mississippi; no matter how much the DEA says they’ll grow it’s not enough and it’s not constitutional. “Even if he [the President] did deschedule by executive order it would end up in the courts right away and get blocked as it directly violates the law.”

      So if the courts and the Presidency uphold only what Congress decides, what does that tell us about the value and revelence of vetting and citizen lobbying our Congressman before debates and elections this year? What does this mean about how important it is to get young people to get to know their Congressman not just the Presidential candidates? Here on this website you can take 5 minutes of your day, link to you state or Federal Congressman, write or use a prescripted letter, identify your Congressman’s phone number and don’t be afraid to give your name and number. Then donate to NORML and move on satisfied with the life you’re living because you made real improvement to the most important civil rights issue in the world, marijuana policy.

      • James says:

        Actually the attorney general can to.

      • James says:

        Also it’s to bad this only protects those 9 states or so. Like the article says, it could change at moments notice.

        • Julian says:

          James, I know how hard it is to accept that we have to work harder to gain vet our Federal Congressional and state candidates… I know how much easier it is to believe that the president, a judge, or any single person can fix prohibition but Democracy just doesn’t work alone. Congress makes the laws, Comgress has to fix them. Especially when every other avenue has been taken. AG Loretta Lynch is not going to de or reschedule, especially with this Congress, for the same reason the President will not; because the executive order would be in court faster than you can slap a cat off of the table, and the court would have to interpret, in the words of Federal Judge Mueller, “Congress doesn’t have to be right.”
          Don’t agree with that?
          Click on the Action button below and tell it to your Congressman.

    2. Julian says:

      And for those who do not believe ending marijuana prohibition is not the most important civil rights issue of our time, consider this;
      Why has ISIS been cutting down Syrian marijuana, a desperate income and nutritional source for Syrian rebels, in the name of Shariah law, while their benefactors in Iran look the other way as marijuana consumption takes off in Iranian society?
      That single question involves war “justified” by religion, sex and arms trafficking and pretty much any humanitarian crisis we can imagine right up to nuclear war.
      The ending of marijuana prohibition ends the network of organized state-sanctioned terror which effects our quality and standard of life, socioeconomic equality, and even our sustained nature with all life on earth, as we return to our more peaceful, synergistic, agrarian garden health and reject the patented biopharmaceutical monoculture that is tearing at the very fabric of our human identity and coexistence with our living planet.

      • Julian says:

        Clarification;
        The “ending of marijuana prohibition ends the network of organized state-sanctioned terror” alright yet CREATES “socioeconomic equality” and a “…sustained nature with all life on earth.”
        I know y’all understand me, but our posts go on the record…

    3. Matt says:

      Not if Federal law or de-scheduling changes by then, judge!

    4. Mark Mitcham says:

      I’ve been looking at the congressional scorecard:

      http://norml.org/congressional-scorecard

      Check it out, it lists all the states, and more! Check out your own state Senators and Reps. I’ll show you what I came up with for Colorado… I was surprised to find that every Colorado politician listed got a “B” or better, including Republicans! …EXCEPT FOR Rep. Doug Lamborn (R), who got a “D”! So let’s fire Lamborn, mmm-kay? I’m also surprised that drug warrior Ken Buck (R) got a “B”!!? What?? That guy was always an opponent of legalization! What happened to him? (One toke over the line, maybe?)

      Here’s Colorado:

      Senators:
      Michael Bennet (D): “B”
      Cory Gardner (R): “B”

      Reps:
      Diana DeGette (D): “B”
      Jared Polis (D): “A”
      Scott Tipton (R): “B”
      Ken Buck (R): “B”
      Doug Lamborn (R): “D”
      Mike Coffman (R): “B”
      Ed Perlmutter (D): “A”

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