DOJ officials had said they did not believe the Rohrabacher-Farr amendment would affect individual cases; the sponsors of the amendment disputed that claim in letters to the attorney general and a request for an inspector general investigation
* Statement below from Dan Riffle of the Marijuana Policy Project *
WASHINGTON, D.C. — A federal judge ruled Monday that a budget amendment approved by Congress prevents the Department of Justice from taking action against medical marijuana patients and providers who are operating in compliance with state laws.
Northern District of California Judge Charles Breyer said that by enacting the so-called Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, “Congress dictated…that it intended to prohibit the Department of Justice from expending any funds in connection with the enforcement of any law that interfered with California’s ability” to implement its own state medical marijuana laws. The decision was prompted by U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag’s efforts to shut down the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana, a prominent San Francisco-area medical marijuana dispensary. Judge Breyer’s ruling is available at http://bit.ly/1OGhBbt.
The House of Representatives first approved the budgetary amendment in May 2014, and it was included in the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2015 signed by President Obama in December. In April 2015, a Justice Department spokesman told the Los Angeles Times that the department did not interpret the amendment as affecting cases involving individuals or businesses, but merely “impeding the ability of states to carry out their medical marijuana laws.”
Congressmen Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) and Sam Farr (D-CA), who sponsored and authored the amendment, responded in a letter that such an interpretation was “emphatically wrong” and later requested an inspector general investigation into the Justice Department’s continued use of funds for prosecutions.
The House of Representatives passed the amendment again in June 2015, and the Senate Appropriations Committee approved it for the first time, as well. It is expected to be included in any compromise legislation funding the government for the next fiscal year.
Statement from Dan Riffle, director of federal policies for the Marijuana Policy Project:
“This is a big win for medical marijuana patients and their providers, and a significant victory in our efforts to end the federal government’s war on marijuana. Federal raids of legitimate medical marijuana businesses aren’t just stupid and wasteful, but also illegal.
“While an annual appropriations rider is a way to temporarily work around broken federal marijuana laws, Congress needs to take concrete steps to permanently resolve the tension between state and federal marijuana laws. Virtually every presidential candidate from both parties has said states should be able to determine their own marijuana laws, and multiple bills are pending in Congress that would allow them to do so. It is long past time those bills got the hearings and votes they deserve.”