Monday, January 30, 2012

Federal Judge Rules State Medical Marijuana Laws Does Not Bar Federal Prosecution

In a big blow to supporters of state medical marijuana laws, a federal judge in Montana ruled that Montana's laws legalizing medical marijuana does not prohibit the federal government from prosecuting people.  Last year federal agents raided more than two dozen medical marijuana providers.  Fourteen of those raided filed a lawsuit in Federal Court claiming that the raids violated their rights because in 2004 voters passed an initiative that allowed them to grow and produce marijuana for medical purposes.  The federal judge presiding over the case. Judge Donald Molloy, dismissed the lawsuit and held that the providers can be prosecuted under the federal Controlled Substances Act even if they followed state law by holding that the supremacy clause applies to medical marijuana laws.  The supremacy clause provides that when there is a conflict between state and federal law, federal law wins.  The plaintiffs also argued that a memo from the Justice Department had led them to believe that the federal government would not do anything so long as people were following state law.  Molloy found that this memo was not binding and did not excuse the plaintiffs from violating federal law.  The federal government's raids of the medical marijuana providers has had a big impact on the providers.  Many providers have shut down their businesses and several dozen of those raided have plead guilty to federal drug charges.  The 2004 voter initiative has been repealed and the legislature has a new medical marijuana law which dramatically curtails the medical marijuana industry in Montana.  There were 395 registered medical marijuana providers at the end of December of 2011 compared to 4,650 at the end of May of 2011.  This decision opens the door to the federal government imposing its will over states that have legalized medical marijuana.

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