Since medical marijuana laws started appearing state by state, the federal government has allowed it to continue – while continuing to prosecute both businesses and patients over the years. In federal courts, they often don’t even allow defendants to use their states laws allowing their actions as a defense since none of it complies with the existing federal laws. This has caused a number of businesses to close down while industry entrepreneurs and patients alike spend the next several years behind prison bars.
A ruling this week by the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco may be putting an end to this once and for all. Judge Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain decided to uphold a piece of 2014 congressional budget rule that disallows the Department of Justice from using their budget to keep states from implementing and enforcing their own laws regarding medical marijuana. While the Department of Justice had argued that the provision only kept them from prosecuting the state, the judge has deemed otherwise – the law applies to everyone, patients and business owners included.
“If DOJ wishes to continue these prosecutions, Appellants are entitled to evidentiary hearings to determine whether their conduct was completely authorized by state law, by which we mean that they strictly complied with all relevant conditions imposed by state law on the use, distribution, possession, and cultivation of medical marijuana,” Judge Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain wrote for the panel.
This is a huge win for the cannabis industry! For the first time since the budget rules were set the regulations surrounding medical marijuana and state’s rights are finally being made a little clearer. Currently this will affect 10 pending cases, which will each go through an individual hearing as mentioned above – if the defendants are found to be in compliance with all their states laws and regulations, then their charges will be dismissed. This is great news going forward – even though it technically only covers a few states, it is likely that other U.S. courts will now rule similarly if the situation ever came up.
This is the beginning of the end of federal prosecutions of state medical marijuana dispensary operators, growers, and patients,” Marc Zilversmit.
There is a really good chance that none of those 10 cases will move forward once the hearings are held. In the meantime defendants can at least take comfort in knowing that for now, the courts appear to be in their corner. This U.S. Court took this as their chance to let the Department of Justice know that they will no longer be able to slip through that tiny loophole in their interpretation of the law – patients and business owners are protected from seizure and prosecution as long as they stay in compliance with their state and local laws.