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Courts

  • by Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel October 20, 2016

    chapter_spotlightThe Florida’s chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) has filed a civil lawsuit against the Broward County Commissioner of Elections, after media and news reports revealed that mail in ballots have been sent to voters omitting the state’s medical marijuana constitutional amendment.

    The claim was just filed by NORML’s national vice chairman, Fort Lauderdale attorney Norm Kent, and his law partner, Russell Cormican, on behalf of Florida NORML and Karen Goldstein, NORML Florida’s chair, a West Park, Broward County voter.

    The plaintiff’s are seeking a judicial declaration enjoining the Defendant’s from distributing any further ballots, and implementing an emergency plan to issue new ones which insure the inclusion of the proposed constitutional amendment on the ballot.

    Norm Kent
    Counsel
    954 661 3361 cel

    Russell Cormican
    Counsel
    954 803 8724

    Karen Goldstein
    Plaintiff
    954 303 9254

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director October 6, 2016

    Cannabis PenaltiesMembers of the Nashville metro council and the Memphis city council have given final approval to municipal legislation providing police the discretion to cite rather than arrest minor marijuana offenders.

    Nashville city council members voted 35 to 3 in late September in favor of the new ordinance. It provides police the option of issuing $50 citations for those who possess up to a half-ounce of marijuana. By contrast, under state law, the possession of small amounts of cannabis is classified as a criminal misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in jail and a criminal record.

    The legislation now awaits action from the city’s mayor, who has pledged to sign the ordinance into law.

    Members of the Memphis city council decided this week in favor of a similar measure by a 7 to 6 vote. For the better part of the past year, members of Memphis NORML have spent their time lobbying members of the Memphis city council in support of the policy change. However, the director of the Memphis Police Department remains opposed to the proposal and has indicated that he may instruct his officers to not immediately comply with the new ordinance.

    Many other cities and counties in the southeastern region of the United States have recently enacted similar ordinances, including Miami-Dade county and West Palm Beach in Florida.

    A Republican state lawmaker has threatened to limit funding to the two Tennessee cities if they enact the ordinances into law.

  • 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 March 21, 2016

    marijuana_gavelSupreme Court justices today declined to consider a 2014 suit challenging the legality of Colorado’s regulations permitting the state-licensed production and retail sale of cannabis to adults.

    Justices decided in a 6-2 vote to reject the lawsuit, filed by Nebraska Attorney General Jon Bruning and Oklahoma Attorney General E. Scott Pruitt, which sought to strike down Colorado’s law on the basis that it is “fundamentally at odds” with the federal Controlled Substances Act. A majority of the Court turned back the petition in an unsigned opinion, while Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented.

    The plaintiffs in the suit now say that they are contemplating filing a similar legal challenge in federal district court.

    NORML Legal Counsel Keith Stroup previously described the lawsuit as “more political theater than a serious legal challenge.”

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director February 24, 2016

    flag_of_canadaA federal court in Canada ruled today that government officials cannot prohibit physician-authorized patients from growing their own supply of medical cannabis.

    The decision strikes down regulations enacted in 2013 that sought to take away patients’ longstanding authority to grow personal use quantities of cannabis. The court opined that the regulations unduly infringed upon patients’ liberties and that they were “not in accordance with the principles of fundamental justice.”

    The judge’s ruling provides Parliament with six months to create new rules governing the regulation and distribution of medical cannabis in a manner that no longer requires patients to obtain medicine solely from federally-licensed, private third party providers.

    NORML Canada‘s John Conroy served as lead counsel for the plaintiffs in the case, while NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano served as an expert witness and filed an affidavit in the case.

    Canadian officials first legalized the physician authorized use, possession, and home cultivation of medical marijuana in 2001. Those regulations were significantly amended in 2013 in a manner that sought to prohibit qualified patients from continuing to receive cannabis from Health Canada or from growing it themselves.

    Last year, newly elected Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to amend Canada’s marijuana laws in a manner that regulates the plant’s use and sale for all adults.

    Text of the decision, Allard et al. v Canada, is online here.

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