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Court: Feds Cannot Take Punitive Action Against State-Compliant Medical Marijuana Facilities

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Court: Feds Cannot Take Punitive Action Against State-Compliant Medical Marijuana Facilities

San Francisco, CA: Federal budgetary provisions forbid the Justice Department from taking action against medical marijuana providers who are operating in compliance with state law, a federal judge for the northern district of California has determined.

The ruling, issued by US District Court Judge Charles Breyer, affirms that Section 538 of the Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015 prohibits the federal government from spending funds in a manner that interferes with a state's ability to authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of cannabis for medical purposes. Federal actions that result in the closing of dispensaries "substantially impede" patients' access to marijuana and thus are forbidden, the Court opined.

"[T]he statutory language ... is plain on its face [and] the Court must enforce it according to its terms," Judge Breyer opined.

His ruling removed an injunction against the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana. The injunction had been in place since federal officials took actions to close down the facility in 2011 as part of a statewide crackdown against dispensary operators.

Section 538 was included as part of a fiscal year 2015 spending bill. Congress is anticipated to renew similar language later this year as part of a FY 2016 appropriations measure.

For more information, please contact Allen St. Pierre, NORML Executive Director, or Keith Stroup, NORML Legal Counsel, at (202) 483-5500.