Federal Ruling Protects Medical Marijuana Dispensaries That Follow State Law

Press Release October 19, 2015
Media Contact

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<p>Tony Newman 646.335.5384<br />
Bill Piper 202.669.6430</p>

Yesterday, a federal judge lifted an injunction against one of California’s oldest medical marijuana dispensaries. The injunction can no longer be enforced in the wake of a congressional spending amendment passed by Congress last year—the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment—that precluded the Department of Justice from spending funds on prosecuting dispensaries in compliance with state law. Setting significant legal precedent, Senior Judge Charles R. Breyer of the U.S. District Court for Northern California ruled that as long as the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment is in effect, the injunction against and the prosecution of Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana and its founder Lynette Shaw may only be enforced if they are in violation of California state law.

“This court decision makes clear that the Justice Department is not above the law and must leave legal state medical marijuana dispensaries alone,” said Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance. “Cancer, MS, AIDS and other medical marijuana patients can sleep a little easier tonight knowing that a federal judge will protect them and the people providing them their medicine.”

The Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, which was attached to a spending bill signed into law in December 2014 by President Obama, only lasts for one year, but Congress is on the verge of renewing it for another year. Several spending amendments allowing states to set their own marijuana policies without federal interference have already passed the U.S. House and/or the Senate Appropriations Committee. Senate Republicans included several marijuana reforms in their recent "minibus" spending package, including prohibiting the DEA from undermining state medical marijuana laws, requiring the Veterans Administration to allow veterans to use medical marijuana, and prohibiting the Treasury Department from blocking banks from providing checking accounts to state-legalized marijuana dispensaries.

The Drug Policy Alliance is coordinating a grassroots and lobbying campaign to pass full legislative reform, most notably the CARERS Act, the sweeping medical marijuana bill we worked with Senators Rand Paul, Cory Booker, and Kirsten Gillibrand to introduce earlier this year.

Polls have consistently shown public support for medical marijuana ranging from 70 to 90 percent over the past two decades. Twenty-three states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico have legalized medical marijuana.

“As more states legalize marijuana for medical or non-medical use the pressure to change federal law will continue to grow,” Piper said.  “There is a clear bi-partisan majority in Congress for letting states set their own marijuana policies.”

DPA Fact Sheet: Medical Marijuana

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