Wednesday August 17, 2016
People living in some western portions of America with liberalized medical marijuana laws have some extra protection from the United States government prosecuting them for violations of US marijuana laws thanks to a decision issued Tuesday by the Ninth US Circuit Court of Appeals. However, only congressional action can promptly ensure such protection is provided to people countrywide.
The appeals court’s United States v. McIntosh ruling decides ten consolidated appeals and petitions for writs of mandamus pursued by appellants who have been indicted for violating the US Controlled Substances Act (CSA). The appellants argue that a prohibition on funding US prosecutions related to medical marijuana should require the dismissal of their indictments and the stopping of their prosecutions. Looking at appropriations legislation for the Department of Justice (DOJ) enacted in 2014 and 2015, the court concludes that a provision of the enacted appropriations bills, which the court refers to a section 542 based on the provision’s location in the 2015 appropriations, “prohibits DOJ from spending funds from relevant appropriations acts for the prosecution of individuals who engage in conduct permitted by the State Medical Marijuana Laws and who fully complied with such laws.”
The result for the appellants, the court explains in its decision, is that, if the DOJ decides to continue with prosecution, the appellants “are entitled to evidentiary hearings to determine whether their conduct was completely authorized by state law.” If the conduct was authorized, then the prosecution must end. The court further clarifies that the matter to be decided in such a hearing is if the actions of the appellants “strictly comply with all relevant conditions imposed by state law on the use, distribution, possession, and cultivation of medical marijuana.”