The fight over legalizing marijuana has been long. From the early days, marijuana used for medical treatment has been considered differently than that which is used recreationally. As early as 1996, California approved marijuana for medical use, and, today there are 16 states total that have legalized the drug for medical use. And now, nearly 20 years later, Colorado, Alaska, Oregon, and Washington have some sort of legalized marijuana for recreational use as well.
On Monday, October 19, a federal judge in the Norther District of California, the Honorable Charles Bryer, ruled that the Department of Justice can no longer use appropriation of funds as a means to keep marijuana dealers who are legal in particular states from distributing their product.
Here’s the report of what happened in The Daily Call:
Although the Rohrabacher-Farr budget amendment was approved by the House in June 2014, approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee and signed into law by President Barack Obama via the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015 the same year, the DOJ had other ideas.
In effect, the department interpreted the amendment to mean that it could not impede the ability of states to carry out marijuana laws, leaving individuals or businesses as open targets. Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher and Democratic Rep. Sam Farr protested the department’s interpretation as “emphatically wrong” and asked for the inspector general July 30 to conduct an investigation of the DOJ.
Even before the amendment passed, DOJ lawyers complained that it would have a major impact on prosecutions. But after the amendment passed, the DOJ decided to reinterpret the amendment in opposition to congressional intent.
Breyer agreed with Rohrabacher and Farr’s assessment.
This is a big win for the medical marijuana community and a step in the right directions for all marijuana business. The Daily Caller explains:
“This is a big win for medical marijuana patients and their providers, and a significant victory in our efforts to end the federal government’s war on marijuana,” Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, said in a statement. “Federal raids of legitimate medical marijuana businesses aren’t just stupid and wasteful, but also illegal.”
“While an annual appropriations rider is a way to temporarily work around broken federal marijuana laws, Congress needs to take concrete steps to permanently resolve the tension between state and federal marijuana laws,” Riffle added. “Virtually every presidential candidate from both parties has said states should be able to determine their own marijuana laws, and multiple bills are pending in Congress that would allow them to do so. It is long past time those bills got the hearings and votes they deserve.”
It’s not clear whether Breyer’s ruling impacts criminal prosecutions
Finally Congress created a law that will prevent the government from intervening in the livelihood of a large group of Americans who are abiding by the law. The Department of Justice wanted to use a loophole to in interpreting the Rohrabacher-Farr budget amendment their own way so that they could raise their number of drug-related arrests. It is time for the Department of Justice to stop worrying about marijuana and to put its resources into fighting real crime.