The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, which sets the laws for Arizona and other western states, has unanimously ruled that the United States Department of Justice cannot prosecute medical marijuana patients and suppliers of marijuana for violating federal cannabis laws if those individuals comply with state laws that legalize the use of medical marijuana. The ruling was based upon a 2014 budget measure that Congress passed and which “prohibits the Department of Justice from spending funds” to prosecute individuals who comply with state laws. Currently, 25 states and the District of Columbia have passed laws to legalize medical marijuana, and voters in 9 more states will consider the issue in November 2016.
Although a victory for individuals and businesses involved in the legal marijuana industry, the victory could be short-lived because Congress or the next President could restore funding to allow the Department of Justice to again prosecute anyone who violates federal marijuana laws, regardless of whether they are also complying with state laws. The Department of Justice could also appeal the Ninth Circuit’s decision and request that the United States Supreme Court decide the issue.
For now, however, the Ninth Circuit’s decision is a step forward toward establishing legal protections to those who comply with state marijuana laws.
READ AN ARTICLE ON THE DECISION FOR ARIZONA LEGAL MARIJUANA.