Government’s Crackdown On Medical Cannabis Not Unconstitutional, Federal Judge Rules

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director March 2, 2012

    A federal judge in Sacramento this week dismissed a federal lawsuit filed in November by members of the NORML Legal Committee against the US Department of Justice, US Attorney General Eric Holder, and DEA Director Michele Leonhart. The lawsuit (read it here), one of four filed simultaneously in the state’s four federal districts, argues that the Justice Department’s ongoing crackdown against medical marijuana providers and distributors in California is in violation of the Ninth, Tenth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the US Constitution because the use of cannabis therapeutically is a fundamental right. Petitioners also argue, using the theory of judicial estoppel, that the Justice Department had previously affirmed in public memos and in statements made in federal court that it would no longer use federal resources to prosecute cannabis patients or providers who are compliant with state law.

    On Wednesday, US District Judge Garland Burrell, Jr., rejected those arguments and and granted the respondent’s dismissal motion. He denied petitioners request for public hearings prior to making his ruling.

    Judge Burrell rejected plaintiffs’ Ninth and Tenth Amendment challenges, finding: “Since the Supreme Court has held the that CSA’s (federal Controlled Substances Act) categorical prohibition of the possession, manufacturing, and distribution of marijuana does not exceed Congress’ authority under the Commerce Clause (Article I Section 8, Clause 3 of the US Constitution), plaintiffs do not have a viable …. claim.”

    He also rejected plaintiffs’ equal protection arguments, finding that the Justice Department’s actions in California mimic efforts the federal government has taken against “similarly situated individuals” elsewhere. Judge Burrell also cited court rulings finding that defendants in previous challenges have failed to meet the “heavy burden of proving the irrationality of the schedule I classification of marijuana.”

    Finally, Judge Burrell dismissed plaintiff’s judicial estoppel clam, which argues that defendants’ “recent crackdown … against medical cannabis patients flouts the representations made on the record by the Department of Justice” in public memos and statements in court. Responding to this challenge, Judge Burrell determined, “Since judicial estoppel does not apply unless ‘a party’s later position [is] ‘clearly inconsistent with its earlier position,’ and the Ogden memo does not contain a promise not to enforce the CSA, defendants’ enforcement of the CSA is not inconsistent.”

    Commenting on the ruling, Attorney David Michael of San Francisco, who along with Matt Kumin and Alan Silber were the lead attorneys in these four challenges, said “We are disappointed, but not discouraged, that the District Courts have thus far denied us the relief we had sought. They are constrained by existing precedent, and the result was not unexpected. It is the Ninth Circuit where we hope to find a receptive audience, and, with the Lawrence v. Texas decision, we may also have a more receptive audience in the Supreme Court, should the issue go there.”

    Judges for the Ninth Circuit had previously determined in Raich v Gonzalez: “For now, federal law is blind to the wisdom of a future day when the right to use medical marijuana to alleviate excruciating pain may be deemed fundamental. Although that day has not yet dawned, … (it) may be upon us sooner than expected.”

    114 responses to “Government’s Crackdown On Medical Cannabis Not Unconstitutional, Federal Judge Rules”

    1. chrisvv says:

      “We continue to address the problems of synthetic drug manufacturing, trafficking, and abuse. Our efforts have clearly shown that these chemicals present an imminent threat to public safety … This six month extension is critical and gives us the time necessary to conduct the administrative scheduling process for permanent control.”


      Thank the DEA for protecting us from these imminent public threats, one decades old and one thousands of years old.

      Any day now, the sky is falling. Just don’t ask US Patent 6630507, proving Cannabis does not meet the criteria for CSA Schedule I listing.

      Truth is treason in the empire of lies. Freaky that the DEA lies with a straight face. Fuck em, they lose all legitimacy by lying.

    2. Somedood says:

      What Democracy.

    3. Kurt says:

      Note to Judges: the US Supreme Court isn’t always right. Take it in for a minute, Judge Burrell and others. In fact, even the US Supreme Court doesn’t think the US Supreme Court isn’t always right. The argument that the Interstate Commerce clause of the Constitutional can govern medical marijuana produced for and residents in the same state is a specious argument at best, and very indicative of the racially and politically questionable judgements rendered by this body in the not-so-distant past.

    4. Jbkorn02 says:

      New day, new great fact based, educational articles by NORML, no change…………

    5. The Jay meister. says:

      Why are we voting for Obama again?
      Where is the protest vote?
      I am not rallying and voting and getting all fuzzy for Obama and car pooling and “Getting out the vote”. I am 100% voting for any one that can win. Well try again with republicans. Sad I know.

      Its a very delicate 4% and they stand a chance to loose the Medical vote altogether.

      And I can assure you right now if you check all the medical forums no one is voting for for “Change” this time around because it was not only business as usual but Big business as usual.

      Delicate it is, 4% could do the trick and topple this regime.

      If he can loose the 4% as most elections are always 51% to 49% +/- then why don’t we “Toke the vote” away from Obama?

    6. Dorine Holmberg says:

      I use medical marijunana in a state where it is not legal and my Doctor will tell me when my eye pressure is so high that his drugs will not lower it to go out and do what I do in order not to lose my eye sight. Its makes me sick to think that the justice department is so blind that they can make a choice for me its not their sight its mine and I valve my eyes almost as much as my life. Who has the right to take my sight from me the doctors are amazed I still see and know its the marijuana that is doing it. I am one of many that went against the law to save my sight by smoking marijuana how can people not see the benefits of this all natural relief? wake up justice dept. look at the real world not your small circle of people who have never been faced with losing something that means so much to each and everyone who is a glaucoma patient.

    7. PbN2Au says:

      SSDD… 100 years from now we will hopefully realize how ridiculously stupid this epoch in America really is in so many aspects.

    8. […] A federal judge in Sacramento, CA has ruled that the federal crackdown in the Golden State does not violate the U.S. Constitution. […]

    9. Mark B says:

      Oh what a crook judge who sided with DEAs like Homeland Security, Napitola who said, that Mexico Drug War is working? But it doesn’t back up with fact of reality! They need to wake up to blind view of the world. The violence is still going on endlessly.

    10. […] A federal judge in Sacramento, CA has ruled that the federal crackdown in the Golden State does not violate the U.S. Constitution. […]