An upcoming court ruling could limit federal prosecutions of medical cannabis. The 9th Circuit federal appeals court is set to rule on some important medical marijuana cases soon.
In each one, people who say they were following state medical marijuana laws were still prosecuted by the federal government.
An amendment passed by Congress said that the Department of Justice can’t use federal money to keep states from implementing their medical marijuana laws.
But there has been a lot of confusion about precisely what this amendment means.
Take Rolland Gregg for example. Gregg was growing marijuana at his home in Washington. He said it was for medical purposes. He also stated that he was growing his cannabis plants by state laws.
Despite his claims, a federal jury convicted him and some of his family members on marijuana charges.
Gregg thinks that he should have been protected under the Congressional amendment. But the Department of Justice says it had the right to prosecute.
And Gregg isn’t the only person who has had something like this happen.
There are at least six cases very similar to this that are now up for appeal.
For many law experts, the court’s decision will have enormous implications for medical marijuana legislation in the U.S.
If the court decides that the federal government can’t prosecute people in medical marijuana states it could set limits on how far federal cannabis laws extend. But if it decides to let the government prosecute it could place limits on how far states can control medical marijuana.
“The 9th Circuit is the biggest circuit, one that contains lots of marijuana states,” said law professor Sam Kamin.
“If they were to say, ‘The federal government is prohibited from enforcing medical marijuana law,’ that would be huge.”
Medical marijuana is now legal in 24 states and Washington D.C.
But the DEA still classifies cannabis as a Schedule I drug.
These are “defined as drugs with no currently accepted medically.” They are also defined as “the most dangerous drugs” and are typically the most heavily criminalized.
Last month the DEA said it might consider rescheduling cannabis. The agency released a memo saying it could reach a decision by July.