San Francisco, CA: Federal officials are not permitted to engage in the criminal prosecution of those who are engaged in activity related to medical marijuana absent evidence that the defendants are in clear violation of state law, according to a unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel on the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
The ruling broadly interprets a 2014 federal budgetary amendment prohibiting the US Justice Department from spending any funds "to prevent ... states ... from implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana." Members of Congress renewed the provision in 2015.
"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.
The Judge opined that Congress could lift the spending ban at its discretion. Because the provision was enacted as an amendment to an annual spending appropriation, Congress must restore the measure each year in order for it to remain in effect.
For more information, please contact Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel, at (202) 483-5500. The decision is available online.