Federal judge upholds the prohibition against federal interference with state marijuana programs, re
This week a California federal court simultaneously upheld the intent of a federal bill to protect state medical marijuana programs, and delivered a scathing rebuke to the federal Drug Enforcement Administration for attempting to circumvent the law.
At issue was the DEA's interpretation of the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment to the spending bill passed in December 2014. The amendment lists the states that have medical marijuana programs, and provides that the Department of Justice may not use federal funds to "prevent such States from implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana."
Despite the simplicity of the amendment, a leaked memo revealed that the DEA interpreted the language not as preventing federal prosecution of individuals and businesses who implement medical marijuana laws, but rather as merely preventing the DEA from interfering with the operations of "states" themselves. The amendment would afford the patients, dispensaries, physicians, and others implementing state medical marijuana programs no protection under the DEA's interpretation.
Fortunately for those who benefit from such programs, Judge Charles Breyer of the Northern District of California rejected the DEA's arguments. In a strongly-worded decision, Judge Breyer wrote that the DEA's interpretation of the amendment is "counterintuitive and opportunistic," "defies language and logic," "tortures the plain meaning of the statute" and is "at odds with fundamental notions of the rule of law." Judge Breyer ruled that the injunction against the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana (MAMM), the dispensary that brought the suit, can only be enforced to the extent that MAMM might violate state - not federal - law.
In addition to effectively lifting the injunction against MAMM, this ruling is a victory for state medical marijuana programs nationwide. It may send a message to the DoJ that efforts to evade the intent of the Rorbacher-Farr amendment - and future laws - will not be successful going forward.
This ruling should let medical marijuana patients and providers in 23 states and the District of Columbia rest a little easier, and serve as a reminder that the tide of the war on marijuana is turning.