In a victory for state medical marijuana programs and patients, a federal court in California ruled Monday that federal authorities may not shut down medical pot dispensaries operating within state laws.
Under Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, which accompanied last year's spending bill, the Justice Department can not use federal dollars to interfere with state medical marijuana laws and practices, preventing the DEA from pursuing dispensaries and patients, the court ruled, according to the Washington Post.
The decision follows a leaked Justice Department memo that interpreted the amendment as offering protections limited to the actual states, not the individuals and businesses which deal with the day-to-day implementation of marijuana laws. As a result of the DEA's continued enforcement, several dispensaries have been closed in California, including one owned by the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana, the first licensed medical pot dispensary in the state.
Judge Charles Breyer of the U.S. district court in northern California disagreed with the DEA memo, writing in his decision that the department's interpretation of the law "defies language and logic" and is "at odds with fundamental notions of the rule of law." Instead, the court sided with the dispensaries, saying the department could not interfere with medical marijuana providers operating legally under state regulations.
The ruling is a huge win for California's dispensaries, who have battled with the DEA for years over the legality of their business practices, the Post notes. The decision could also discourage the Department of Justice from cracking down on medical marijuana in the other 23 states with where the substance is legal.