Major Decision: Federal Court Affirms War on Medical Pot Is Over

lawful medical cannabis operators can celebrate a legal victory today

In a major legal decision, a federal appeals court ruled that the United States government’s war on medical cannabis is effectively de-funded.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has affirmed a lower court ruling that the Department of Justice cannot spend any funds prosecuting people complying with state-legal medical cannabis laws.

“We therefore conclude that at a minimum [Congressional law] prohibits [the Department of Justice] from spending funds … for the prosecution of individuals who engaged in conduct permitted by the State Medical Marijuana Laws and who fully complied with such laws,” the decision states. It was filed today.

Since California started in 1996, 37 states now have some form of medical cannabis law. The Department of Justice under President Obama has spent hundreds of millions of dollars interfering with state medical marijuana systems, advocates say.

In 2014, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher and Sam Farr used the power of the purse to end the war on medical weed, defunding federal “interference” in state systems. Since then, U.S. attorneys have sought to narrow the definition of “interference” to allow for continued medical marijuana-related prosecutions. Prosecutors had argued Congressional law only forbids them from intimidating state regulators.

But federal prosecutors were dealt a stunning rebuke from Judge Charles Breyer in a lower court ruling in October. Judge Breyer said Congressional law is clear — no interference.

Now, the Ninth Circuit has weighed in, ruling on a handful of federal cases where the so-called “Rohrabacher-Farr” amendment could apply. The Ninth Circuit ruled that federal prosecutions of lawful state actors amounts to interference, because it prevents the state from “giving practical effect to its law providing for non-prosecution of individuals who engage in the permitted conduct.”

The precedent-setting Circuit ruling from three judges — Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain, Barry G. Silverman, and Carlos T. Bea — places a dome of legal protection over all lawful state-level medical cannabis conduct in its jurisdiction. The precedent promises to be raised throughout the country in similar cases, legal experts say.

Congress is now at work on a bi-partisan law to make permanent the cease-fire on medical marijuana, under the CARERS Act. Last week, the DEA concluded cannabis should remain a “schedule 1” drug deemed to have no medical use and a high potential for abuse. A super-majority of Americans support safe access to medical marijuana, recent polls find.

Oakland attorney Robert Raich, a veteran cannabis litigator said judges had been ignoring Congressional law, and the new ruling makes the issue clear.

“Finally, the Ninth Circuit is providing clarity and overruling a number of district court judges that were ignoring the will of Congress,” he said. “This decision indicates that the federal government should stop its attack on state-legal cannabis providers and allow the states to create and implement frameworks that serve the medical needs of their citizens.”

Award-winning San Francisco journalist and best-selling author David Downs is a contributor to Cannabis Now. His writing has appeared in Scientific American, WIRED, Rolling Stone and the New York Times.

18 Comments

  1. Ben

    August 20, 2016 at 2:21 am

    Progress is being slowly made but these retards at the DEA need to go away.
    So many stupid narrow minded ppl -.-‘

  2. shewah

    August 17, 2016 at 3:20 pm

    Isn’t great when Dems and Repubs get along (In 2014, Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R) and Sam Farr (D) used the power of the purse to end the war on medical weed, defunding federal “interference” in state systems).

    Republicans for State’s Rights and Liberty… Democrats for Compassionate Care.

  3. shewah

    August 17, 2016 at 3:10 pm

    People… we need banks so we can legitimize our businesses. Hopefully, this will be the next step… and soon. I totally support medical and I’m in a state that has now voted for recreational use. Problem is.. they want to combine the Medical and Recreational and then bring ALL forms under the jurisdiction of the Liquor Control entities instead of separating it between Human Services and Liquor Control. If our government will recognize medical… but, not recreational… our hands remain tied.

  4. Pingback: Federal Appeals Court Bars DOJ from Funding MMJ Prosecutions | Ganjapreneur

  5. Pingback: Federal Appeals Court Bars DOJ from Spending Money to Prosecute MMJ Cases | Ganjapreneur

  6. Juergen Meixner

    August 17, 2016 at 4:46 am

    “A society that holds remedies a secret so that more medications can be sold with huge profits, but is not a real society. For this a large lunatic asylum.”
    Dr. Sebi

    “Eine Gesellschaft, die Heilmittel geheim haelt, damit weiter Medikamente mit gigantischen Gewinnen verkauft werden koennen, ist keine echte Gesellschaft. Dafuer aber eine riesige Irrenanstalt.”
    Dr. Sebi

    #Cannabisoil

  7. Laurence Badgley

    August 16, 2016 at 6:09 pm

    It seems that federal interference with medicinal cannabis use that comports with states’ mandateed laws is now a civil rights violation; reportable to the FBI.

  8. Alex

    August 16, 2016 at 4:14 pm

    When is this decision going Nationwide

  9. Mark Ibsen MD

    August 16, 2016 at 3:57 pm

    Thank you Ninth Circuit Court.
    Will this be heard by SCOTUS?

  10. Janet Allen

    August 16, 2016 at 3:11 pm

    This a step in the right path. More must be done. The work is far from over. I support the movement to legalize marijuana. I would like to the will of the people be met in a more timely fashion.

  11. Rick Rosio

    August 16, 2016 at 2:51 pm

    Blessings to those who worked on making this happen… When I faced the Federal Government in 2012 the result of losing my home and everything I owned .
    So many people have been persecuted by this old racist law… friends of mine died in route to Federal prison because of his compassion towards the sick and suffering… losing everything including his life over this racist law that Richard Nixon exploited to create this schedule 1 rating.
    This old law has destroyed enough lives … time to end it and move beyond the lies of the prohibitionist profiteers
    I hope and pray that those we elect to Congress will now end this law and provide Veterans with the ability to have access to this healing plant for treating PTSD and opiate secession.
    NO SIN NO VICE with cannabis therapy
    http://www.veteransforcompassionatecare.org

    • Frank turner

      August 21, 2016 at 10:51 am

      Hi sorry to hear about your friend .I am a vet that is on opaite meds but afraid to talk to my va doc about pot to help lessen the need for the pills for fear that the vs will cut me off all together and then their is the cost .I am not able to work mostly because of the meds.what do u think .keep quiet and wait see what happens or they a chance. Thank you frank

  12. Harlaan

    August 16, 2016 at 2:50 pm

    Medical pot is an essential medicine. I know the reliable fully online clinic at 420evaluationsonline.com I suppose it is important to know for those people who need the ID card and or the evaluation as well. The health is priceless.

  13. Lynnette Shaw

    August 16, 2016 at 2:27 pm

    The Shaw Decision goes nationwide!!That is my case mentioned twice in this article. Am thrilled

  14. Josh brewer

    August 16, 2016 at 2:06 pm

    Is this reliable information did this take place today ??? And whoms hand do I need to shake also ……. Free Mary Jane

  15. Vicky Nicholson

    August 16, 2016 at 1:25 pm

    I would say it’s about damn time. Cannabis has been medicaly for thousands of years. It is cruel to withhold it from patients in need.

    • Sensible Advocate

      August 17, 2016 at 7:17 am

      This is only great news if you live is a state with a medical marijuana law on the books and happen to fit the criteria of that law. For half the states in the nation this ruling does nothing. Please help continue the fight in those other states and at a national level.

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