Suit Before Ninth Circuit Court Of Appeals Seeks To Halt Federal Actions Against California’s Medical Cannabis ProvidersOctober 25, 2012
On Wednesday, October 24, a group of California dispensary operators, medical cannabis providers, and patients, as Plaintiffs, filed their Opening Brief before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, asking the Circuit Court to hold that Plaintiffs, in their continuing litigation against the Federal Government, have a constitutional Ninth Amendment and Substantive Due Process fundamental right to distribute, possess and use medical cannabis. The brief, filed by members of the NORML Legal Committee, also contends that the Federal Government’s criminal prohibition of medical cannabis has no rational basis and thus violates the Equal Protection Clause of the Constitution. Plaintiffs further contend that the Federal Government is Judicially Estopped from enforcing medical marijuana prohibition in states that allow such activity because the Administration has previously asserted in public and in court that they would no longer do so.
Plaintiffs in November 2011 initially filed suit in California’s four federal districts against Eric Holder (United States Attorney General), Michelle Leonhart (Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration and the individual US Attorneys of each California District: Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego — following increased efforts from the Obama administration and the state’s US Attorneys to crack down on the production and distribution of medical cannabis. Plaintiff’s are asking the Ninth Circuit to reverse the district court’s dismissal of that complaint, and to allow the plaintiff’s the opportunity to prove their contentions in a court of law.
Three members of the NORML Legal Committee — Matt Kumin and David Michael from San Francisco and Alan Silber from Roseland, NJ — are representing the Plaintiffs in this appeal. In a press release, they stated, “The ill, in compliance with state law and with a physician’s recommendation, are made to suffer needlessly by the federal threats and denial of access to medical cannabis due to irrational governmental policy. Judicial intervention is the only way to stop the federal government from acting irrationally and from willfully ignoring the science supporting the use of cannabis as medicine.”
The cases are El Camino Wellness Center, et al. v. Eric Holder et al. (Sacramento), Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana, et al. v. Eric Holder, et al. (San Francisco), and Alternative Community Health Care Cooperative, et al. v. Eric Holder, et al. (San Diego).
Other NLC attorneys who participated in the litigation of these cases are Lance Rogers of San Diego, Mark Reichel of Sacramento and Edward Burch of San Francisco.
A copy of Plaintiff’s Opening Brief is available here.
NORML and the NORML Women’s Alliance are pleased to announce their support and official endorsement of The Movement for Peace and Justice with Dignity, along with the American-based organization Global Exchange’s “Caravan for Peace.”
“This campaign will draw public attention to the damage marijuana
prohibition is causing not only in our country, but in Mexico as well. This multi-national coalition of drug reform, human rights, religious and progressive organizations have come together with one objective; raising awareness about, and ending, our 75 year violent and failed drug prohibition,” said Sabrina Fendrick of the NORML Women’s Alliance.
[From the website:] The Caravan represents one element of a broad strategy responding to Mexico’s violent national emergency resulting from Drug War policies (in Mexico and the U.S.) gone tragically wrong. The idea of the Caravan is to make Mexico’s national emergency tangible in the United States and to create a platform where those affected by the Drug War from Mexico, the U.S. and elsewhere can join their voices to inform public opinion on both sides of the border.
The Caravan takes place at a politically charged moment. It begins in San Diego, six weeks after Mexico’s July 1 presidential election and arrives in Washington, D.C. in September, six weeks prior to the U.S. elections. This summer we will bring communities together around events large and small, turning awareness into action and building a movement that will continue pushing for changes at the local, state, national and international level long after the Caravan has passed through.
The U.S. Caravan’s mission is, among other things:
- To make the connections between the impacts of the Drug War in Mexico (violence, deaths and rise of organized crime) and in the U.S. (criminalization, incarceration, and life-long marginalization- disproportionately affecting African-American and Latino communities);
- To promote a civil society discourse with the American public and opinion leaders about the policies (easy access to assault weapons, militarization of drug enforcement and U.S. prohibition policies) at the root of the crisis;
- To foster collaboration and effective solidarity among a broad range of progressive, grassroots, religious, humanitarian and other organizations; and
- To leave, in the Caravan’s wake, informed, organized, and mobilized communities of activists who will pursue reform strategies in the near and long-term on both sides of the border.
NORML chapters across the country, as well as NORML Women’s Alliance community groups will be taking part in the campaign as the caravan arrives in their respective locations. If there are other groups who are interested in getting involved with the Caravan, please click here to find your local contact.
No matter the media medium, the tragic story of the federal government’s war against a beloved plant and the people who’re keen to it, can’t be told enough times, in enough ways.
This unique cartoon medium allows for audio embeds, some offensive language may be heard.
United States Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-CA), along with eight co-sponsors, has introduced legislation — House Bill 6335, the Medical Marijuana Property Rights Protection Act — which seeks to amend the federal Controlled Substances Act so as to “exempt real property from civil forfeiture due to medical-marijuana-related conduct that is authorized by State law.”
Representative Lee’s bill, the first of its kind ever introduced in Congress, is a direct response to Justice Department’s increased and arbitrary use of the civil asset forfeiture statute to sanction property owners whose tenants are in compliance with state medical marijuana laws. Since October, US Attorneys in California alone have sent more than 300 threatening letters to landlords across the state, resulting in the closure of more than 400 dispensaries, according to tabulations compiled by the group Americans for Safe Access.
Speaking in support of the proposal, Rep. Lee explained, “As a long-time supporter of the rights of patients to have safe and legal access to medicine that has been recommended to them by their doctors, this bill will provide clarification to California businesses and security for California patients. The people of California have made it legal for patients to have safe access to medicinal marijuana and, as a result, thousands of small business owners have invested millions of dollars in building their companies, creating jobs, and paying their taxes. We should be protecting and implementing the will of voters, not undermining our democracy by prosecuting small business owners who pay taxes and comply with the laws of their states in providing medicine to patients in need.”
The Medical Marijuana Property Rights Protection Act has been assigned before the House Judiciary Committee and the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. You can contact your member of Congress is support of the Act via NORML’s ‘Take Action Center’ here.
Several other marijuana law reform bills also remain pending before Congress, including:
* HR 2306, the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, which prohibits the federal government from prosecuting adults who use or possess marijuana by removing the plant and its primary psychoactive constituent, THC, from the five schedules of the United States Controlled Substances Act of 1970. The measure presently has 20 co-sponsors. You can contact your member of Congress in support of this Act here.
* HR 1983, the States’ Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act, which ensures that medical cannabis patients in states that have approved its use will no longer have to fear arrest or prosecution from federal law enforcement agencies. The measure presently has 22 co-sponsors. Support this measure by clicking here.
* HR 1831, the Industrial Hemp Farming Act, excludes low potency varieties of marijuana from federal prohibition. The measure presently has 33 co-sponsors. Its just introduced Senate companion bill, S 3501, has three co-sponsors. Contact your member of the House and Senate in support of this Act here.
* HR 6134, The Truth in Trials Act, provides an affirmative defense in federal court for defendants whose actions were in compliance with the medical marijuana laws of their state. The measure presently has 22 co-sponsors. You can support this measure here.
[Editor’s note: This post is excerpted from this week’s forthcoming NORML weekly media advisory. To have NORML’s news alerts and legislative advisories delivered straight to your in-box, sign up here.]
Total seizures of cultivated cannabis plants fell an estimated 35 percent between the years 2010 and 2011, according to statistics provided by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and published in the Sourcebook of Criminal Justice Statistics.
Data for the year 2011 indicates that some 6.7 million cannabis plants were eradicated nationwide under the DEA’s Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program, which is active in all 50 states. This figure represents the lowest total of cultivated plants eradicated since 2006, and is a 35 percent decrease from 2010, when the DEA reported eradicating some 10.3 million marijuana plants.
The year-to-year drop was largely a result of a decline in the total number of plants eradicated in California. In 2010, the DEA reported eradicating some 7.4 million plants in California. That number fell to just under 4 million plants in 2011.
Overall, approximately 60 percent of all of the marijuana plants eradicated in the United States in 2011 were from California plots.
The DEA further reported having seized over $11 million in assets associated with its eradication efforts in California. Nationwide, the agency reported seizing over $42 million in assets associated with its Domestic Cannabis Eradication/Suppression Program.
According to a July 2012 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, the Justice Department’s asset forfeiture fund under President Barack Obama is the largest on record, having grown from $500 million in 2003, to $1.8 billion in 2011. According to the GAO, the fund paid out approximately $79 million to California law enforcement agencies, the most in the nation, for their participation in federal raids and seizures.
In recent months, the Justice Department has targeted numerous properties in California for civil asset forfeiture – including Harborside Health Center, the largest and most prominent medical marijuana dispensary in the state.
Year-to-year cannabis eradication data is available from the Sourcebook here.