A US federal appeals court has banned the Department of Justice from spending funds to prosecute medical marijuana cases in instances where no state laws have been broken.
The DOJ is now in a position where it must demonstrate ten pending cases have broken medical marijuana laws in the relevant states before proceeding with prosecutions.
Part of the opinion (PDF) from one of the three judges, Judge O’Scannlain, states:
“We therefore conclude that, at a minimum, § 542 prohibits DOJ from spending funds from relevant appropriation acts for the prosecution of individuals who engaged in conduct permitted by the State Medical Marijuana Laws and who fully complied with such laws”.
According to SFGate, In 2014, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher and Sam Farr ended the assault on medicinal cannabis by defunding federal “interference” in state systems – but this interference was deemed by prosecutors to just apply to intimidating state regulator. In their view, it apparently left dispensaries and users of cannabis-based medicines as fair game.
While many are celebrating the decision, there is a gotcha in the Judges’ opinion – if Congress restores or provides funding specifically for these sorts of prosecutions:
“Congress could restore funding 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,” stated Judge O’Scannlain.
However, one of the lawyers representing in one of the pending cases says the writing may be on the wall for medical marijuana mess in the USA.
“I hope this is the beginning of the end of federal prosecutions of state medical marijuana dispensary operators, growers and patients,” said Marc J. Zilversmit
With half of US states having legalized cannabis to various degrees, the conflict between State and Federal laws is causing increasing headaches for the Feds.
While the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) may have dug its heels in regarding the rescheduling of cannabis just recently; it seems it’s a just matter of time before the Federal government will realise its folly and start working towards a more harmonious relationship with the states on this issue.