Medical Marijuana

Judge Agrees DOJ Harassment of Medical Marijuana Suppliers Is Illegal

Thanks to a spending rider, California's oldest dispensary can reopen.

|

Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana

Yesterday a federal judge ruled that the Justice Department is breaking the law by trying to shut down state-legal medical marijuana dispensaries in California. In a case involving a federal injunction against the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer said enforcing such court orders violates a spending rider that says the DOJ may not use appropriated money to "prevent" states from "implementing" laws allowing medical use of marijuana. The Justice Department maintains that the rider, which was included in the omnibus spending bill that Congress approved last December, affects only direct legal challenges to state laws. Breyer disagreed, saying "it defies language and logic for the government to argue that it does not prevent California from implementing its medical marijuana laws by shutting down these…heavily regulated medical marijuana dispensaries."

Breyer noted that the sponsors of the medical marijuana amendment, Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) and Sam Farr (D-Calif.), have complained that the Justice Department is misinterpreting their instructions. In a July 30 letter, Rohrabacher and Farr asked DOJ Inspector General Michael Horowitz to investigate continued federal harassment of medical marijuana suppliers as violations of the Anti-Deficiency Act, which makes it a crime to spend federal money in ways that Congress has not authorized. They explained that "we, the authors of the language, and our many colleagues—including those who opposed the amendment—laid on the record repeatedly that the intent and language of the provision was to stop DOJ from interacting with anyone legitimately doing business in medical marijuana in accordance with state law."

Before the amendment passed, DOJ lawyers warned that it would have a dramatic impact on marijuana prosecutions. After the amendment passed, the DOJ suddenly decided it has no effect on such cases, meaning federal prosecutors can keep trying to imprison medical marijuana providers like Charlie Lynch in California and patients like the Kettle Falls Five in Washington.

According to the San Francisco Chronicle, "Breyer did not say whether his reasoning would also apply to criminal prosecutions." But it is hard to see why it wouldn't, since both prosecutions and injunctions have the same effect of shutting down state-legal suppliers of medical marijuana. If Breyer's ruling is upheld on appeal, it could have far-reaching implications, especially since the House of Representatives voted in June to renew the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment for another fiscal year. The Senate Appropriations Committee approved similar language a week later.

The Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana, which operated from 1998 until the Justice Department shut it down in 2011, is California's oldest dispensary. Founder Lynnette Shaw told the Chronicle she plans to reopen as soon as possible. If Breyer's ruling persuades other judges or wins the approval of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, it could affect federal actions against the Berkeley Patients Group and Oakland's Harborside Health Center, not to mention patients and providers throughout the 9th Circuit, which includes five other states that have legalized medical marijuana.

Addendum: Breyer's ruling does not actually dissolve his 2002 injunction against the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana (MAMM), which ultimately led to the dispensary's closure via a DOJ forfeiture action. But Breyer says "the plain reading of the text of Section 538 [the Rohrabacher/Farr amendment] forbids the Department of Justice from enforcing this injunction against MAMM to the extent that MAMM operates in compliance with California law." Breyer notes that MAMM operated under a state law authorizing patient collectives to supply medical marijuana and with the approval of local officials, who certified that the dispensary complied with all relevant regulations.

[Thanks to Marc Sandhaus for the tip.]

Advertisement

NEXT: Peter Suderman on Steven Spielberg and Bridge of Spies

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Fuck the DOJ. And, I feel a little weird saying this, but… go Judge Breyer.

  2. Before the amendment passed, DOJ lawyers warned that it would have a dramatic impact on marijuana prosecutions. After the amendment passed, the DOJ suddenly decided it has no effect on such cases…

    Christ, they are shitbags, aren’t they?

    SO…

    They’ve violated Federal law, and if the above is true, they have admitted that they are in violation of federal law. So when will the prosecutions begin? And, may we also assume the violators will find themselves in a federal, pound you in the ass, prison?

    Oh, wait…that’s just for the little people.

  3. Yesterday a federal judge ruled that the Justice Department is breaking the law by trying to shut down medical marijuana dispensaries in California.

    Let the SWAT raids on federal prosecutor offices begin.

  4. Since when has the judicial branch thought executive branch agencies are subject to legislative branch oversight? I thought that was an anachronism from a hundred years or so ago when those old dead white guys wrote the Declaration of Dependence. Now that the monarchy has been restored, the courts have no business telling the king that parliament can interfere with his issuing of decrees.

    1. if anything, modern jurisprudence leans towards the legislative being under *executive* oversight. You write the law, we decide what it means – the courts agree.

  5. Hey, the judge is the brother of Justice Stephen Breyer!

    They put the wrong Breyer on the Supreme Court.

    Or maybe not. Wikipedia says: “[Charles] Breyer presided over the Ed Rosenthal trial in 2007, in Rosenthal’s federal prosecution for distribution of marijuana for medical use.”

  6. Yesterday a federal judge ruled that the Justice Department is breaking the law by trying to shut down medical marijuana dispensaries in California

    So, since we are a nation of laws and not men. And those who break the law are held accountable. When do the prosecutions begin?

    [crickets]

  7. Breyer did not say whether his reasoning would also apply to criminal prosecutions.” But it is hard to see why it wouldn’t,

    It wouldn’t for the same reason that the PPACA penalty is a tax. FYTW.

  8. I bought brand new BMW by working ONline work. Six month ago i hear from my friend that she is working some online job and making more then 98$/hr i can’t beleive. But when i start this job i have to beleived her
    Now i am also making 98$/hr if you want to try just check this out

    ————– http://www.HomeJobs90.Com

  9. Trinity Medical Marijuana offers top quality medical marijuana, seeds and cannabis oil at affordable prices. For more info please visit our website http://www.trinitymedicalmarijuanastore.org or call or text us directly at 917 725 7722 . email: info.trinitymedicalmarijuana@gmail.com…..

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.