Yesterday, a federal judge lifted an injunction against one of California’s oldest medical marijuana dispensaries. Setting significant legal precedent, Senior Judge Charles R. Breyer of the U.S. District Court for Northern California ruled that as long as the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment is in effect, the injunction against and the prosecution of Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana and its founder Lynette Shaw may only be enforced if they are in violation of California state law.
Bill Piper, director of national affairs for the Drug Policy Alliance stated that, “This court decision makes clear that the Justice Department is not above the law and must leave legal state medical marijuana dispensaries alone.”
The Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, which was attached to a spending bill signed into law in December 2014 by President Obama, only lasts for one year, but Congress is on the verge of renewing it for another year. Several spending amendments allowing states to set their own marijuana policies without federal interference have already passed the U.S. House and/or the Senate Appropriations Committee. Senate Republicans included several marijuana reforms in their recent "minibus" spending package, including prohibiting the DEA from undermining state medical marijuana laws, requiring the Veterans Administration to allow veterans to use medical marijuana, and prohibiting the Treasury Department from blocking banks from providing checking accounts to state-legalized marijuana dispensaries.
Polls have consistently shown public support for medical marijuana ranging from 70 to 90 percent over the past two decades. Twenty-three states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico have legalized medical marijuana.
The ruling indicates a softening of the general publics attitudes towards the use of medical marijuana and ongoing momentum for full legalization. In Colorado where full legalization is in effect, taxes from marijuana sales totaled 70 million, outpacing alcohol sales. The decriminalization of marijuana has a significant impact on communities of color. In Washington DC, for example, African Americans are 8 times more likely to be arrested for pot possession.
-Filiberto Nolasco Gomez
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