In a new ruling shoring up the strength of state laws permitting the growing, selling, and possession of medical marijuana, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday that federal prosecutors can not go after users or purveyors of medical pot so long as they "strictly comply" with their state laws. As the Associated Press reports, marijuana advocates rejoiced over the news, saying that the ruling was "a significant addition to the growing support for broad legalization of the drug."
Marijuana of course remains illegal under federal law, and just one week ago the DEA and the Obama administration refused a plea by two Democratic governors to reconsider marijuana's classification as a Schedule 1 substance which means that it has a "high potential for abuse" and "no accepted medical use." The latter is of course untrue if you ask a broad range of doctors across the country, but as NPR reported, the FDA says it's still awaiting well-controlled clinical trials to change its mind on the drug, and they issued a statement saying the agency has "an interest in developing therapies from marijuana and its components and have taken aggressive, coordinated action to do so."
The new Ninth Circuit decision derives directly from a 2015 Congressional budget amendment, as KRON 4 explains, in which Congress voted to prevent the Department of Justice from "spending funds on prosecution of people who use, sell, or grow medical marijuana in compliance with a state law."
The three-judge panel of the appeals court ruled unanimously that states that had their own medical marijuana laws had the right to use their own discretion in these cases, and federal laws prohibiting the drug outright no longer apply there. "If the federal government prosecutes such individuals," they said in the ruling, "it has prevented the state from giving practical effect to its law."
This means that US Attorneys will have to prove to the court in 10 pending cases in California and Washington that state laws have been violated as well.
The DOJ still may ask for a second review of their case by a full 11-judge panel of the Ninth Circuit.
Meanwhile, recreational marijuana is high-ly likely to be legal come next year if we all vote in November, right?