Chris Yarzab

Federal Appeals Court Bars DOJ from Funding MMJ Prosecutions

A federal appeals court has ruled that the U.S. Department of Justice cannot spend money to prosecute federal medical marijuana cases if the defendants are in compliance with the laws set forth in their state, according to a report from Reuters.

The ruling affirms the so-called “Rohrabacher-Farr” amendment passed by Congress in 2014, which defunded federal “interference” in state medical cannabis systems.

Robert Raich, an Oakland, California-based attorney specializing in cannabis litigation, said the ruling clarifies the issue for courts and federal law enforcement.

“Finally, the Ninth Circuit is providing clarity and overruling a number of district court judges that were ignoring the will of Congress,” he said in a Cannabis Now report. “This decision indicates that the federal government should stop its attack on state-legal cannabis providers and allow the states to create and implement frameworks that serve the medical needs of their citizens.”  

Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain, one of the three 9th Circuit judges who issued the unanimous ruling, wrote that their decision does not mean that medical marijuana providers are immune from federal law.

“Congress could restore funding tomorrow, a year from now, or four years from now,” he wrote, “and the government could then prosecute individuals who committed offenses while the government lacked funding.”

Following the decision, defendants in 10 cases in Washington and California argued for dismissal of federal charges levied against them. Those charges will likely be dropped by prosecutors so long as the defendants have “strictly complied” with regulations in their respective states.

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