As a U.S. District Court blocks federal prosecution of California weed growers, experts think it could have ripple effects throughout the entire legalization movement.
Blocking Federal Prosecution
Back in July 2012, Humboldt County weed growers Anthony Pisarski and Sonny Moore were raided by federal agents. Authorities discovered 327 cannabis plants, guns, and more than $400,000 in cash.
After the raid, Pisarski and Moore faced charges for conspiracy to manufacture and possession with intent to distribute.
Now, five years later, the case has taken an interesting turn. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Seeborg blocked federal prosecutors from continuing their case against the growers. He made his decision earlier this week.
The judge concluded that Pisarski and Moore were following California’s laws for growing and selling medical marijuana.
“Their conduct strictly complied with all relevant conditions imposed by California law on the use, distribution, possession, and cultivation of medical marijuana,” explained Judge Seeborg.
A Landmark Decision
While that’s the main crux of the decision, there’s actually a lot more going on behind the scenes. To begin with, Pisarski and Moore built their case on a key piece of legislation called the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment.
Passed in 2014, that amendment basically makes it so that federal funds cannot be spent prosecuting people for cannabis laws if they were following state laws. Judge Seeborg agreed that the amendment applied to Pisarski’s and Moore’s case.
But there’s even more. In making his decision, Judge Seeborg cited an earlier case called “United States v. McIntosh.” This case was taken before the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit last year.
The decision in that case basically confirmed that people can be protected from federal prosecution if they’re following state laws that allow for medical marijuana.
Law experts think that this most recent case could have ripple effects. In particular, they said that “United States v. Pisarski et. al.” will strengthen the decision made in “United States v. McIntosh.” Together, these cases establish strong precedent for defending people from federal prosecution.
“It’s significant that a federal court ruled that people targeted by feds and in compliance with California’s medical marijuana laws ruled in the defendants’ favor,” said Dale Gieringer, the director of California NORML.
He added: “This is the first case I’m aware of where McIntosh was cited and used to full effect.”
Tamar Todd, another expert, agreed with Gieringer’s assessment. Todd is the director of legal affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance.
“This shows that you can prevail,” she said. “Defendants in federal court could have their prosecutions halted. It’s very encouraging. It gives a lot of teeth to Rohrabacher-Farr.”
Final Hit: Court Blocks Federal Prosecution of California Weed Growers
All of this could be especially important given the national political climate. Since Donald Trump moved into the White House, there has been a lot of confusion about how the federal government will view cannabis.
Many saw the report as the first step toward a federal crackdown on weed. Even before the report, many states with legal weed had begun taking steps to protect residents from federal prosecution if they’re following state laws.
An important precedent could be established as Judge Seeborg’s court blocks federal prosecution of California weed growers. In particular, it could help lay the legal groundwork for protecting medical marijuana growers, sellers, and patients from federal prosecution.