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LITIGATION

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 10, 2017

    Marijuana and the LawAn Arizona appellate court has ruled that a 2012 state law prohibiting the use of medical cannabis on college campuses is unconstitutional. Lifetime NORML Legal Committee member Tom Dean represented the patient-defendant in the case pro bono.

    Arizona voters in 2010 narrowly approved a statewide initiative, the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act (AMMA), permitting qualified patients to possess and use medicinal cannabis. The Court determined that the legislature’s decision to later amend the law in order to restrict medical marijuana use on college campuses does not “further the purpose” of the 2010 law and therefore must be struck down.

    “By enacting A.R.S. § 15-108(A), the Legislature modified the AMMA to re-criminalize cardholders’ marijuana possession on college and university campuses,” the Court opined. “The statute does not further the purposes of the AMMA; to the contrary, it eliminates some of its protections.”

    The Court argued that campuses and university possess the authority to enact their own individual policies restricting medical cannabis use, but that lawmakers can not do so.

    The decision overturned a medical-marijuana card holder’s 2015 felony conviction for the possession of a small quantity of cannabis while attending Arizona State University.

    The Arizona Attorney General’s Office has not yet publicly stated whether they intend to appeal the ruling to the state Supreme Court.

  • by NORML February 14, 2017

    chapter_spotlightThe four-year feud between Iowa State University (ISU) and the student group NORML ISU has finally concluded with a victory for the marijuana reform advocacy group.

    The US Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit ruled in favor of NORML ISU right to use a marijuana leaf and the logo of the school on their promotional items.

    Here is the background as written in the Washington Post by Eugene Volokh:

    NORML ISU at first got permission from the Trademark Office to use a T-shirt “that had ‘NORML ISU’ on the front with the ‘O’ represented by Cy the Cardinal,” with “Freedom is NORML at ISU” and a cannabis leaf depicted on the back. But after a Des Moines Register article mentioned the T-shirt, a state legislator and someone at the Governor’s Office of Drug Control Policy heard about this and objected, and the University barred NORML ISU from printing further T-shirts with the design. After that, the University’s Trademark Guidelines were changed to ban “designs that suggest promotion of the below listed items … dangerous, illegal or unhealthy products, actions or behaviors; … [or] drugs and drug paraphernalia that are illegal or unhealthful.”

    The court disagreed.

    “NORML ISU’s use of the cannabis leaf does not violate ISU’s trademark policies because the organization advocates for reform to marijuana laws, not the illegal use of marijuana,”

    The circuit court decided that students’ “attempts to obtain approval to use ISU’s trademarks on NORML ISU’s merchandise amounted to constitutionally protected speech.”

    Basically, ISU violated the students’ first amendment rights and discriminated against them on the basis of their viewpoint.

    The suit was overseen by the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. Marieke Tuthill Beck-Coon, FIRE’s director of litigation, released a statement saying “We are so pleased to see Paul and Erin’s victory unanimously affirmed by the Eighth Circuit today. Paul and Erin had the courage to stand up for their First Amendment rights, and thousands of students in seven states will now benefit from their commitment.”

    This can only come as a reminder to us to stand up and fight back against those looking to suppress advocates for marijuana legalization (and fashionable people everywhere). We as a constituency have the unalienable right of freedom of speech, so make your voice heard and get involved with a NORML chapter near you.

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director August 31, 2016

    marijuana_gavelJustices for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals today ruled in favor of a 1968 federal law prohibiting the sale of firearms to any “unlawful user” of a federally controlled substance.

    Justices determined that state-registered medical marijuana patients are forbidden from purchasing firearms because cannabis remains classified as a Schedule I substance under federal law. They further opined that the ban “furthers the Government’s interest in preventing gun violence” because marijuana users “are more likely to be involved in violent crimes.”

    They concluded, “[The plaintiff in this case] does not have a constitutionally protected liberty interest in simultaneously holding a [medical cannabis] registry card and purchasing a firearm.”

    In 2011, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms issued a memorandum to all gun dealers in the United States specifying, “Any person who uses … marijuana, regardless of whether his or her state has passed legislation authorizing marijuana for medicinal purposes, is an unlawful user of or addicted to a controlled substance, and is prohibited by federal law from possessing firearms or ammunition.”

    In response to today’s court ruling, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “There is no credible justification for a ‘marijuana exception’ to the US Constitution. Responsible adults who use cannabis in a manner that is compliant with the laws of their states ought to receive the same legal rights and protections as do other citizens. It is incumbent that members of Congress act swiftly to amend cannabis’ criminal status in a way that comports with both public and scientific opinion, as well as its rapidly changing legal status under state laws.”

    The Ninth Circuit decision, Wilson v Lynch et al., is available online here.

  • 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.”

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director August 10, 2016

    imgresThe United States Drug Enforcement Administration has rejected a pair of administrative petitions that sought to initiate rulemaking proceedings to reschedule marijuana under federal law.

    Although the DEA’s ruling continues to classify marijuana in the same category as heroin, the agency also announced in a separate decision that it is adopting policy changes designed to expand the production of research-grade cannabis for FDA-approved clinical studies.

    Presently, any clinical trial involving cannabis must access source material cultivated at the University of Mississippi — a prohibition that is not in place for other controlled substances. Today, the agency announced for the first time that it will be seeking applications from multiple parties, including potentially from private entities, to produce marijuana for FDA-approved research protocols as well as for “commercial product development.” This change was initially recommended by the DEA’s own administrative law judge in 2007, but her decision was ultimately rejected by the agency in 2011.

    Below is a statement from NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano regarding the DEA’s decisions:

    For far too long, federal regulations have made clinical investigations involving cannabis needlessly onerous and have placed unnecessary and arbitrary restrictions on marijuana that do not exist for other controlled substances, including some other schedule I controlled substances.

    While this announcement is a significant step toward better facilitating and expanding clinical investigations into cannabis’ therapeutic efficacy, ample scientific evidence already exists to remove cannabis from its schedule I classification and to acknowledge its relative safety compared to other scheduled substances, like opioids, and unscheduled substances, such as alcohol. Ultimately, the federal government ought to remove cannabis from the Controlled Substances Act altogether in a manner similar to alcohol and tobacco, thus providing states the power to establish their own marijuana regulatory policies free from federal intrusion.

    Since the DEA has failed to take such action, then it is incumbent that members of Congress act swiftly to amend cannabis’ criminal status in a way that comports with both public and scientific opinion. Failure to do so continues the federal government’s ‘Flat Earth’ position; it willfully ignores the well-established therapeutic properties associated with the plant and it ignores the laws in 26 states recognizing marijuana’s therapeutic efficacy.

    Under the U.S. Controlled Substances Act of 1970, the cannabis plant and its organic cannabinoids are classified as Schedule I prohibited substances — the most restrictive category available under the law. By definition, substances in this category must meet three specific inclusion criteria:

    The substance must possess “a high potential for abuse”; it must have “no currently accepted medical use” in the United States; and, the substance must lack “accepted safety for use … under medical supervision.”

    Substances that do not meet these criteria must, by law, be categorized in less restrictive federal schedules (Schedules II through V) and are legally regulated accordingly. Alcohol and tobacco, two substances widely acknowledged to possess far greater dangers to health than does cannabis, are not classified under the Controlled Substances Act.

    A recent review of FDA-approved clinical studies evaluating the safety and efficacy of herbal cannabis concluded: “Based on evidence currently available the Schedule I classification is not tenable; it is not accurate that cannabis has no medical value, or that Information on safety is lacking.”

    Added Armentano: “The DEA’s decision is strictly a political one. There is nothing scientific about willful ignorance.”

    The DEA has previously rejected several other rescheduling petitions, including a 2002 petition filed by a coalition of marijuana law reform and health advocacy organizations, and a 1972 petition filed by NORML. The petitions that triggered this latest DEA action were filed in 2009 by a nurse practitioner and in 2011 by then-Govs. Christine Gregoire of Washington and Lincoln Chafee of Rhode Island.

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