- About About
Medical Patient Resources Becoming a State-Authorized Patient Talking to your doctor Which conditions qualify? The Medical Cannabis Patient’s Guide for U.S. Travel Patient's Guide to CBD Patient's Guide to Medical Cannabis Guide to Using Medical Cannabis Condition-based Booklets Growing Cannabis Cannabis Tincture, Salve, Butter and Oil Recipes Leaf411 Affordability Program Tracking Treatment & Gathering Data with Releaf App Medical Professional Resources CME for Medical Professionals Cannabis Safety Medical Cannabis Research
- Legal Legal
Advocacy ASA Chapters Start an ASA Chapter Take Action Campaigns No Patient Left Behind End Pain, Not Lives Vote Medical Marijuana Medical Cannabis Advocate's Training Center Resources for Tabling and Lobby Days Strategic Planning Civics 101 Strategic Messaging Citizen Lobbying Participating in Implementation Movement Building Organizing a Demonstration Organizing Turnout for Civic Meetings Public Speaking Media 101 Patient's History of Medical Cannabis
Policy Model Federal Legislation Download Ending The Federal Conflict Public Comments by ASA Industry Standards Guide to Regulating Industry Standards Recognizing Science using the Data Quality Act Fact Sheet on ASA's Data Quality Act Petition to HHS Data Quality Act Briefs ASA Data Quality Act petition to HHS Information on Lawyers and Named Patients in the Data Quality Act Lawsuit Reports 2020 State of the States Medical Cannabis in America Medical Cannabis Access for Pain Treatment
- News News
- Join Join
Federal medical marijuana defendants and those who are particularly vulnerable to federal prosecution can now breathe a little bit easier. On Tuesday, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a 5-4 decision in the case of Alleyne v. United States, which has put juries more in control of mandatory minimum sentencing decisions. The Alleyne Court held that because mandatory minimum sentences increase the penalty for a crime, any fact that is necessary to impose the mandatory minimum must be proven to the jury. This decision will not impact every federal medical marijuana case, but it will raise the burden of proof the federal government must bear in order to impose mandatory minimum sentence on patients and providers.
Previously, in Apprendi vs. New Jersey (2000), the Supreme Court ruled that under the Sixth Amendment, any fact which could increase the maximum sentence must fact proven to the jury beyond a reasonable amount. However, Apprendi only applied to statutory maximums rather than mandatory minimum sentences.
Not long after Apprendi, the Supreme Court addressed mandatory minimums in Harris vs. United States (2002), but instead of extending Apprendi to mandatory minimums, it held that defendants do not have the right to have facts that would trigger a higher mandatory minimum to be proven to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt. Instead, a judge could bring in facts that the jury never found to be proven. Worse still, the standard of evidence under Apprendi was merely a "preponderance of evidence", which simply means greater than a 50% chance of being true, and being far weaker than the standard of "beyond a reasonable doubt." (For a more detailed comparison between these cases, SCOTUSblog does an outstanding job explaining these nuances.)
New Legal Precedent
For medical marijuana defendants, who are often subjected to harsh federal mandatory minimum sentencing, all of the facts that can trigger a mandatory minimum sentence now must be heard by a jury. For example, under the old Harris rule, a jury could find a medical marijuana defendant guilty of cultivating less than 50 plants, which carries no mandatory minimum, but a judge could decide during sentencing that there was a preponderance of evidence to suggest the defendant was cultivating more than 50 plants and possibly impose stiffer mandatory sentence as a result. Under the new Alleyne rule, the court has held that it is a violation of the Sixth Amendment to allow judges to consider facts that they jury did not agree were proven.
By reconciling mandatory minimum sentences with the Sixth Amendment interpretation in Apprendi, federal prosecutors will now have to work harder to impose mandatory minimum sentences in their crackdown on medical marijuana.