Feds Back Down on Medical Cannabis Prosecution

In a dramatic and hard-fought win for the cannabis normalization movement, the federal government has formally acknowledged cannabis pioneer Lynnette Shaw’s right to grow and distribute medical cannabis.

Shaw is widely considered the mother of medical cannabis. She helped author California’s original medical cannabis bill, Prop. 215, and in 1997 founded the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana, the nation’s first state-licensed medical marijuana dispensary, in Fairfax, California.

In 1998, the feds singled out Shaw as part of a broader attack on California’s marijuana industry, hoping to make an example out of an industry pioneer. Shaw avoided being shut down until 2011, when the Obama administration threatened the Marin Alliance with asset forfeiture and lengthy prison sentences. Shaw was forced to abandon her operation, and the feds banned her from participating in any future cannabis endeavors.

In a phone interview with Ganjapreneur, Shaw described the aftermath of the Marin Alliance shutdown as filled with paranoia and espionage. “They terrorized me,” she said. “They ruined me financially; they ruined basically any opportunity of me working anywhere.”

She went off the grid, leaving behind her phone and online networks for the safety of her friends and colleagues. She knew she was being watched, and wanted to avoid bringing trouble to other cannabis professionals. “They wanted me to give up names and supply routes,” she said. Shaw bought a pit-bull, both for protection and companionship — she was “on the run” for more than four years.

“Change your rental car every three days,” she laughed. “That’s how you lose a tail.”

In 2015, Shaw found a way to break back into the industry. A clause tacked onto the 2015 national spending bill called the Rohrbacher-Farr Ammendment blocked the Department of Justice from spending federal funds to prosecute state-legal medical marijuana enterprises. Citing unlawful interference with medical marijuana laws, Shaw filed a lawsuit against the agencies that had been hunting her for years. In October 2015, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer ruled in her favor.

This week, the 9th District Circuit Court finally threw out the subsequent appeal by federal agencies, making Lynnette Shaw the first person to be federally-sanctioned to grow and dispense medical cannabis. And it won’t stop there.

But what’s next for the mother of medical cannabis?

Shaw recently co-founded the Veterans Cannabis Group to help out the struggling veteran population in her area. The organization will host an official kickoff barbecue event on April 30. Though she hopes eventually to revive the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana, Shaw has a few things to take care of first.

“We’re going to have to go and get our people out [of federal prison] now. I am not giving up the fight. I’m like a general back on the battlefield — what I want to do is rescue my people. Get them out of these cases, get them out of jail, get them off probation, get them off of marijuana testing. The war against medical marijuana is over, we just have to clean up the mess. We can make this all go away in just a few years.”

Attached below is the original press release issued by Shaw and her attorney:

18 years of civil litigation comes to an end against Lynnette Shaw over her permit to sell medical marijuana

The close of 18 years of Federal civil litigation came with a mere 2 sentences on April 12, 2016. The signal is loud and clear: the war against medical marijuana is coming to an end…medical marijuana won!

In June, 2015, Lynnette Shaw and her attorney Greg Anton filed for relief from a permanent injunction against distributing medical marijuana. In October, 2015, a Federal judge issued a scathing decision, affirming Shaw’s right to act in accordance with California law. Then the Federal government appealed. Today, the 9th Circuit Court dismissed the appeal. This is the first time a federal court has specifically allowed a person to distribute medical marijuana without federal interference.

“I’m relieved that the vindictive persecution has ended,” said Ms. Shaw. “I’m thrilled to return to the industry I helped create.”

Ms. Shaw has received honors and awards for her achievements in pioneering medical marijuana and licensed dispensaries.

In June, 1997, Fairfax, Ca, Ms. Shaw and The Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana created the first-in-the-nation regulated dispensary to sell medical marijuana.

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