U.S. prosecutors were dealt a significant blow recently with a decision by justices with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, in their decision regarding 10 consolidated appeals of persons facing federal marijuana charges. What the court ruled was that prosecutors can’t use federal tax dollars to prosecute individuals who were acting in accordance with state-approved marijuana laws.
The ruling follows a 2014 Congressional amendment that strips the Department of Justice of the right to interfere with the state-level implementation of medical marijuana laws. Prior to this, it was not uncommon for federal prosecutors to aggressively pursue those who operated medical marijuana cultivation operations, medical marijuana dispensaries and manufacturers of certain marijuana-infused products.
When this law was passed, numerous people who were being prosecuted by the federal government on these types of charges asked the courts to dismiss their cases, arguing their actions were in compliance with state law. For example, one group of defendants (there were 10 in all in the consolidated appeal) operated a number of L.A. marijuana dispensaries were criminally charged by the feds with distributing more than 100 marijuana plants. The court remanded those consolidated cases back to the lower court for consideration of whether defendants were in fact in compliance with state statutes. If they were, the charges against them should be dismissed. Continue reading