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U.S. v Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana (Northern District of California)
On October 19th, 2015, District Court Judge Charles Breyer in San Francisco ruled that the CJS Amendment applied not just to federal interference with state programs but also the prosecutions of medical cannabis defendants. In a long-standing case involving an injunction against the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana (MAMM) and its founder Lynette Shaw, Judge Breyer ruled 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 medical cannabis law, the Amendment prevents federal prosecutors from shutting them down through civil injunctions.
While this is a major victory for medical cannabis patients and providers, it is important to note that this case is not binding in other federal jurisdictions, and judges in other jurisdictions could rule otherwise. In early 2015, 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.
In May 2016 the DOJ dropped its civil forfeiture action against Harborside Health Center in Oakland, CA. The case was brought by the DOJ back in 2011 as part of a federal crackdown against legal state medical cannabis dispensaries. The dropping of the case was at least in part the result of the CJS amendment, which prevents the DOJ from interfering with those abiding by their state medical cannabis law.
Since the Harborside was dropped, it does not carry any binding legal precedent, but the action strongly suggests that the federal prosecutors thought they could lose the case had it continued in the courts.
U.S. vs. McIntosh (9th Circuit)
The most important case involving the budget restrictions Congress placed on DOJ actions took place in the federal 9th Circuit Court. In the August 2016 decision of U.S. vs. McIntosh, the court held that the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment prohibits the federal prosecution of conduct that is allowed by the state's medical cannabis law.
In the opinion, Judge Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain wrote:
We therefore conclude that, at a minimum, § 542 prohibits DOJ from spending funds from relevant appropriations acts for the prosecution of individuals who engaged in conduct permitted by the State Medical Marijuana Laws and who fully complied with such laws.
The opinion remanded all of the cases that included in the appellate ruling back to the trial court. If federal prosecutors want to continue pursuing their cases against the defendants, they must prove at an evidentiary hearing that the defendant violated state law.
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