Pubdate: Wed, 21 Oct 2015
Source: Denver Post (CO)
Copyright: 2015 The Denver Post Corp
Author: Christopher Ingraham, The Washington Post


Washington - In a scathing decision, a federal court in California 
has ruled that the Drug Enforcement Administration's interpretation 
of a recent medical marijuana bill "defies language and logic," 
"tortures the plain meaning of the statute" and is "at odds with 
fundamental notions of the rule of law." The ruling could have a 
broad impact on the DEA's ability to prosecute federal medical 
marijuana cases going forward.

At issue is the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment to last year's government 
spending bill. The amendment lists the states that have medical 
marijuana laws, and mandates that the Justice Department is barred 
from using federal funds to "prevent such States from implementing 
their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, 
possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana." Pretty 
straightforward, right?

When the legislation was passed, advocates and lawmakers on both 
sides of the issue agreed that the bill basically prevented the DEA 
from going after medical marijuana dispensaries, provided that such 
dispensaries were acting in compliance with state law. The DEA, 
however, didn't see it that way. In a leaked memo, the Justice 
Department contended that the amendment only prevents actions against 
actual states - not against the individuals or businesses or business 
that actually carry out marijuana laws. In their interpretation, the 
bill still allowed them to pursue criminal and civil actions against 
medical marijuana businesses and the patients who patronized them.

Justice's reading of the amendment infuriated its sponsors. They 
called for an investigation into the Department of Justice's 
"tortuous twisting of the text" of the bill, saying it violated 
common sense. This week, judge Charles Breyer of the U.S. District 
Court in northern California agreed.

The ruling could discourage the Department of Justice from creative 
interpretations of the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment going forward, 
which should let medical marijuana businesses and their patients in 
23 states breathe a sigh of relief.
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