Politics  The latest in cannabis legalization including laws and policies, legislators’ views, election coverage, and more.

Federal Court to DEA: Hands Off Medical Marijuana Providers

A federal court decision out of California is pulling no punches in its ruling against the Drug Enforcement Administration, saying that the organization’s interpretation of the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment “defies language and logic” and is “at odds with fundamental notions of the law.”

The Rohrabacher-Farr amendment was designed to protect organizations that are operating in compliance with state medical marijuana laws from federal prosecution by barring the use of federal funds to “prevent such states from implementing their own state laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.”

However, it was found that the Drug Enforcement Administration has had their own interpretation of the amendment. According to a memo from the Department of Justice last February, the amendment only prevents actions against the state itself, rather than the individuals or companies operating within the state.

As a result of this interpretation, the DEA continued to prosecute companies and patrons of medical marijuana establishments despite their adherence to state marijuana laws, leaving anyone operating in the cannabis industry vulnerable to raids, asset seizure, and federal drug charges.

Luckily for those operating in legal medical and recreational states, you’ve got Judge Charles Breyer of the U.S. District Court on your side. Judge Breyer ruled that the interpretation the Department of Justice has been using is “counterintuitive and opportunistic.”

Former DEA Agent Patrick Moen of Privateer Holdings broke down the enormous implications of such a momentous verdict:

"While not binding outside the Northern District of California, the ruling has enormous precedential value, particularly in light of its well-reasoned analysis and harsh condemnation of the government’s “opportunistic” interpretation of the law.  If adopted by other districts, it essentially prevents the Department of Justice, including the DEA, from taking enforcement action against any and all state-compliant medical marijuana operations, for as long as the appropriations provision remains in effect."

Representative Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), the author and sponsor of the amendment, has been a vocal proponent of medical marijuana and has been instrumental in making sure that this amendment continues to be renewed:

“So many people have come to rely on ‘Rohrabacher-Far’ to protect them from unwarranted federal prosecution. It would be unthinkable to allow this provision to expire, especially considering that it received more support by members of both the House and the Senate than ever before.”

Rep. Rohrabacher’s response to the ruling was a sigh of relief, saying, “Judge Breyer’s rebuke of DoJ’s ridiculous interpretation of our amendment is most welcomed.”

Speaking of the DEA, the administration was in hot water recently over another newly revealed fact: A number of DEA employees have failed drug tests in the last five years, but faced no serious consequences. According to internal DEA discipline logs, there have been 16 incidents of employees failing drug tests since 2010, and while several employees chose to resign or retire, not a single one was actively fired. (Note that we're not advocating for employees being fired over drug use unless there are extenuating circumstances, just pointing out the hypocrisy.)

This case represents a new era of accountability for the U.S. government and for federal law enforcement agencies that were once deemed untouchable.

For those companies working hard to maintain compliance with state marijuana laws, calm your fears and assuage your worries. This time, the law should be on your side.