Victory - Rohrabacher-Farr Held to Apply in Federal Court

October 20, 2015 | Mike Liszewski

In a major victory for medical cannabis patients and providers, a federal judge in California has ruled that the prosecutions of medical cannabis defendants must be consistent with the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment. While lawyers for Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana (MAMM) and its founder Lynette Shaw were not successful in completely dismissing the federal injunction against them, Judge Breyer ruled that enforcement of the injunction must be consistent with the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment.

The Amendment was signed into law back in December 2014 and prohibits the Department of Justice from spending funds to interfere with the implementation of state medical cannabis programs. ASA worked throughout 2014 on Capitol Hill to ensure that the bill passed the House and also survived in the Senate. In 2015, ASA led the effort to ensure that the amendment be reauthorized by the House by a vote of 242-186 and worked to get Senator Mikulski to introduce the bill in the Senate Judiciary Committee where it won by a margin of 21-9.  

ASA is still digesting the full legal impact of the decision, but it seems apparent that the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment is not merely symbolic legislation, and has meaningful impact in preventing the federal crackdown on state-legal medical cannabis conduct. What is absolutely clear is that Judge Breyer's decision means that the Amendment "forbids the Department of Justice from enforcing this injunction against MAMM to the extent that MAMM operates in compliance with state California law.” In other words, as long as providers adhere to state law, the Amendment prevents DOJ from shutting down state-legal providers. ASA congratulates Lynette Shaw and MMAM and salutes their legal team for their successful legal argument. 

It is important to note that this case is not binding in other federal jurisdictions, and judges in other jurisdictions could rule otherwise. Earlier this year, a federal judge in Washington State refused to dismiss the Kettle Falls Five case when presented with a motion invoking the Amendment. However, the judge in that case had determined that there was a strong likelihood that the defendants had violated state law, and there was not a similar determination made in the MAMM case. One should keep in mind that in the Kettle Falls Five case, the local prosecutor refused to bring charges against them because the supposed violation of state law was a technical matter based on conflicting provisions regarding home cultivation and collective gardens, and they were brought into unambiguous compliance with state law following an inspection by local officials prior to their federal raid. Please take a moment to help the recently sentenced Kettle Falls Five defendants who are now seeking commutation of their sentences by signing this White House petition. 

The ruling by Judge Breyer in this is one of the biggest victories for patients, however, much work is still needed to finally end the federal crackdown on state-legal medical cannabis conduct. To permanently fix this situation, Congress needs to pass the CARERS Act. Please take a moment to urge your Members of Congress to sign on CARERS to the war on patients once and for all.



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