Judge Tells DEA to Stop Raiding Medical Marijuana Providers

by Joey Clark

Ruling is a Step Forward for Opponents of War on Drugs

The medical marijuana industry in California — as well as states’ rights advocates across the nation — has reason to celebrate after a federal judge issued a ruling that the Department of Justice violated federal law when it interpreted an amendment barring the DEA from taking “legal actions” against local dispensaries in compliance with state law as allowing such “legal actions.”

Common Dreams reports:

Judge Charles Breyer of the U.S. District Court in northern California handed down a biting decision chastising the DOJ for its twisted interpretation of the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which bars the department or the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) from taking legal action against suppliers in compliance with state regulations.

The DOJ instead used the amendment to do exactly that—claiming it only blocks the agency from challenging state laws, but not from going after individuals or businesses—and shut down one of California’s oldest dispensaries, the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana (MAMM), in the process.

“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 wrote in the decision for MAMM v. USDOJ, which could set a precedent for how the justice system addresses state-legal protection of pot businesses.

Breyer’s is the first known ruling by a federal judge to rule in favor of a dispensary under the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which was only approved for one year after the spending bill was signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2014, but which is expected to be renewed by U.S. Congress.

Judge Breyer’s ruling provides a major sigh of relief to dispensary owners and medical patients who use marijuana to help treat cancer and other major ailments.

As the Washington Post reports:

Seeing it as perhaps the final nail in the coffin of the DEA’s years-long  involvement with California’s medical marijuana program, medical marijuana advocates are cheering the ruling. “It’s great to see the judicial branch finally starting to hold the Justice Department accountable for its willful violation of Congress’s intent to end federal interference with state medical marijuana laws,” said Tom Angell of Marijuana Majority.

Dan Riffle of the Marijuana Policy Project agreed. “This is a big win for medical marijuana patients and their providers,” he wrote in a statement, “and a significant victory in our efforts to end the federal government’s war on marijuana. Federal raids of legitimate medical marijuana businesses aren’t just stupid and wasteful, but also illegal.”

The amendment’s congressional sponsors are happy too. “After months of experiencing the Department of Justice’s refusal to follow the letter and intent of the ‘Rohrabacher-Farr’ provision, a federal court has finally reined them in,” said Rep. Dana Rohrabacher in an email. “Judge Breyer’s rebuke of DoJ’s ridiculous interpretation of our amendment is most welcomed.”

Yet, the ruling also showcases the need for further reforms to federal drug laws and law enforcement practices such as “civil asset forfeiture.”

This recent court battle may be a major victory, but the War on Drugs is still being waged on many fronts.

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