Government’s Crackdown On Medical Cannabis Not Unconstitutional, Federal Judge Rules

A federal judge in Sacramento this week dismissed a federal lawsuit filed in November by members of the NORML Legal Committee against the US Department of Justice, US Attorney General Eric Holder, and DEA Director Michele Leonhart. The lawsuit (read it here), one of four filed simultaneously in the state’s four federal districts, argues that the Justice Department’s ongoing crackdown against medical marijuana providers and distributors in California is in violation of the Ninth, Tenth, and Fourteenth Amendments to the US Constitution because the use of cannabis therapeutically is a fundamental right. Petitioners also argue, using the theory of judicial estoppel, that the Justice Department had previously affirmed in public memos and in statements made in federal court that it would no longer use federal resources to prosecute cannabis patients or providers who are compliant with state law.

On Wednesday, US District Judge Garland Burrell, Jr., rejected those arguments and and granted the respondent’s dismissal motion. He denied petitioners request for public hearings prior to making his ruling.

Judge Burrell rejected plaintiffs’ Ninth and Tenth Amendment challenges, finding: “Since the Supreme Court has held the that CSA’s (federal Controlled Substances Act) categorical prohibition of the possession, manufacturing, and distribution of marijuana does not exceed Congress’ authority under the Commerce Clause (Article I Section 8, Clause 3 of the US Constitution), plaintiffs do not have a viable …. claim.”

He also rejected plaintiffs’ equal protection arguments, finding that the Justice Department’s actions in California mimic efforts the federal government has taken against “similarly situated individuals” elsewhere. Judge Burrell also cited court rulings finding that defendants in previous challenges have failed to meet the “heavy burden of proving the irrationality of the schedule I classification of marijuana.”

Finally, Judge Burrell dismissed plaintiff’s judicial estoppel clam, which argues that defendants’ “recent crackdown … against medical cannabis patients flouts the representations made on the record by the Department of Justice” in public memos and statements in court. Responding to this challenge, Judge Burrell determined, “Since judicial estoppel does not apply unless ‘a party’s later position [is] ‘clearly inconsistent with its earlier position,’ and the Ogden memo does not contain a promise not to enforce the CSA, defendants’ enforcement of the CSA is not inconsistent.”

Commenting on the ruling, Attorney David Michael of San Francisco, who along with Matt Kumin and Alan Silber were the lead attorneys in these four challenges, said “We are disappointed, but not discouraged, that the District Courts have thus far denied us the relief we had sought. They are constrained by existing precedent, and the result was not unexpected. It is the Ninth Circuit where we hope to find a receptive audience, and, with the Lawrence v. Texas decision, we may also have a more receptive audience in the Supreme Court, should the issue go there.”

Judges for the Ninth Circuit had previously determined in Raich v Gonzalez: “For now, federal law is blind to the wisdom of a future day when the right to use medical marijuana to alleviate excruciating pain may be deemed fundamental. Although that day has not yet dawned, … (it) may be upon us sooner than expected.”

114 thoughts

  1. I just found out – consuming cannabis is a better fire retardant than duct tape and I decided to share:

    “It has been scientifically proven that the common use of duct tape to maintain human skull integrity while facing the irrationality of judiciary rulings is largely inefficient. Regardless of the pressure maintained by the outside confines – the brain will still splash against the inner walls of the cranium and the resulting flames can easily blind someone for life.

    On the other hand, the act of consuming cannabis shows great promise in the treatment of this spreading political malignancy. As studies reveal, internal pressures on the cerebellum are evenly distributed among a wide variety of available concepts and possibilities. This balance ensures a nonvolatile condition when subjected to the dangerous effects of high energy lies, unbelievable particles flying everywhere, and the deluge of unconstitutional waves – all of which cause prison cancer. The conclusions are obvious – fewer heads explode when exposed to cannabis radiation.

    Besides – it really hurts when you try to get duct tape off your head. Duct tape should be a schedule I substance because it has a high potential for abuse – it has no medical value – it is not safe.”

    Um, yes… you really did just read this… What’s even more remarkable is that I actually allowed myself to post it.

  2. I guess my question is – who will stop this “crackdown”, an intrusion into personal and States rights?

    It sure seems wrong to me, and if it isn’t unconstitutional, it should be.

  3. What was the Supreme Court thinking when it gave those God powers to the Feds? Now what?

    I am of the opinion our Constitution never intended for our Government to have this kind of unbridled authority.

  4. What do you expect from a crooked goverment. It’s there way or the highway. Like Johnney C. saiad the color of justice is green $. It’s time for the people to take back the goverment, the rich have had control too long and it’s time the people of the U.S.A. to fight back againest the machine.

  5. Were these dispensaries in ANY WAY breaking the state laws? I mean, were they operating too close to schools or something? What happened to the orders given by the Attorney General to not focus resources on these places? Shouldn’t somebody be getting fired?

  6. If all fossil fuels and their derivatives, as well as trees for paper and construction were banned in order to save the planet, reverse the Greenhouse Effect and stop deforestation, then there is only one known annually renewable natural resource that is capable of providing the overall majority of the world’s paper and textiles; meeting all of the world’s transportation, industrial and home energy needs; simultaneously reducing pollution, rebuilding the soil, and cleaning the atmosphere all at the same time. That substance is the same one that did it all before, Cannabis Hemp … Marijuana!

  7. Well, Denver, you are absolutely right.

    I had a little problem with you calling a “plant” a “substance”. But I guess I’ll get over that…

    I want to add…

    “But we need to protect our children!”

    That’s bullshit. The pollution from industry and genetically altered food has been killing our children for decades. This prohibition has got to stop – to save our children and their future.

    I never want to hear another person suggest that prohibition does anything to protect our children. It does nothing of the sort. Prohibition of this plant is very bad for society and the planet as a whole.

    By now it must be common knowledge that cannabis, with all its varieties, is the most versatile of any other known plant.

    Why do we have to keep talking about this?

    It’s a no-brainer… Legalize it and let’s get on with this journey. Life is too short for this kind of crap.

  8. @ Bbbababart thank you, but I can take no credit from that posting, that’s from the great, late Mr. Jack Herer and his wonderful book The Emperor wears no clothes :)-

  9. I’ve never read that book, but I’ve seen a lot of good quotes from it. Other great works would include Woody Harrelson’s “Hempsters: Plant the Seed”.

  10. This decision is invalid based on the following:

    The commerce clause only applies to commerce that occurs between states (interstate commerce) and not commerce that only occurs within the state. That is how Montana got around federal gun laws. Someone needs to take up the lawsuit again and use this fact…

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