With every passing year, marijuana becomes legal in more places across America. Medical marijuana is now legal in 24 states and recreational use is legal in 4 states and D.C. with many others voting on the issue this November. Yet federal marijuana laws have not changed and cannabis is still illegal. The Department of Justice (DOJ) has used this fact to pursue and prosecute dispensaries, growers, and civilians in states where marijuana is legal at the state level. Several businesses have shut down as a result and many citizens have been arrested and are undergoing prosecution. Some residents in California and Washington have been in legal battles over charges for several years.
Details of the New Amendment
A new amendment passed recently by Congress may change the pending cases as well as change the way the DOJ runs things. The amendment states that the DOJ cannot spend any of the funding allocated to them by Congress to stop states that have legalized medical marijuana from initiating and maintaining laws that allow use, distribution, and possession. The implementation of this law means that help will be available for those charged with marijuana related crimes that would have been legal under state law. At least 6 cases of federal prosecutions could be overturned.
The Case of Rolland Gregg
Rolland Gregg is one such person whose case could be affected by the amendment. Last year, he, his mother, and wife at the time were all charged with growing 50-100 marijuana plants, which is legal under Washington medical marijuana law. He said “It’s been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with in my life when you see the government coming down on you for simply trying to be healthy.” Gregg uses medical marijuana to treat the residual effects from a snowboarding accident that broke his neck and back. His mother has rheumatoid arthritis and his wife at the time had an eating disorder.
A United Front Against Federal Marijuana Prosecution
A court appeal for some of the prosecuted public will occur in the 9th Circuit. Many anticipate the outcome of the appeal so that a better understanding of the new amendment can take place. According to Alex Kreit, a marijuana law expert at Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, “The (amendment’s) language is not a model of clarity. It really is open to a number of different interpretations.” Gregg’s attorney, Phil Telfeyan, who is also co-founder of the nonprofit civil rights group Equal Justice Under Law, said, “The feds think they have the power to override voters of the State of Washington and the will of Congress. It’s up to the 9th Circuit to tell them ‘Enough is enough’. You can’t keep prosecuting people who are using medical marijuana for their needs.”
Congress made some progress when ruling to allow states to manage their own marijuana laws. Many taxpayers are not happy to have their money spent funding the DOJ to shut down dispensaries and denying public access to their medication. The Drug Enforcement Administration has promised to look into reclassifying marijuana this year. Marijuana is currently a Schedule I drug, considered to be the most dangerous drug with no medicinal value. Should it get reclassified to Schedule II or III this year, or even declassified, we may continue to see federal marijuana law updated.