MMJ Advocates Fight Back Against Calif. Cannabis Crackdown, Sue Federal Gov’t

Just Released! Get realistic market forecasts, state-by-state insights and benchmarks with the new 2024 MJBiz Factbook member program, now with quarterly updates. Make informed decisions.

After getting smacked around over the past month, medical marijuana supporters in California are going on the offensive, filing several lawsuits against the federal government’s widely publicized crackdown on the state’s MMJ industry.

The lawsuits aim to stop the government’s recent push to close dispensaries via  raids and other, indirect actions, such as threatening to seize the assets of landlords with MMJ  tenants. Plaintiffs – a group that includes patients, marijuana dispensary owners and landlords – have asked the court to issue a temporary order that prohibits the government from prosecuting those who buy and sell medical marijuana. The goal is to get the Obama administration to sit down and hammer out a compromise that would take the pressure off dispensaries, growers and patients who are abiding by state laws.

Lawyers for the cannabis advocates filed the lawsuits in California’s four federal judicial districts over the past few days.

Plaintiffs argue that the recent crackdown in California is unconstitutional and amounts to a reversal of the government’s position on medical marijuana. In 2009, the administration issued a memo saying that it would not use federal resources to target marijuana businesses that are compliant with state laws. That memo opened the door to the medical marijuana industry as we know it today. Plaintiffs also say the crackdown is simply unfair, as the feds aren’t threatening dispensaries and landlords in other MMJ states, such as Colorado.

The lawsuits name U.S. Atty. Gen. Eric Holder as well as California’s four federal prosecutors – who initiated the crackdown – and the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration. They come on the heels of a similar motion filed last month by Americans for Safe Access, a pro-pot group that is challenging the legality of the crackdown as well.

A thick fog has descended on the entire medical marijuana industry over the past month, as the government’s moves have led to mass confusion. While the feds have mostly targeted California dispensaries that are violating state laws, in some cases they have gone after MMCs that appear to be in full compliance with local regulations. Marijuana businesses in other states also are worried that what’s happening in California will spread to other states as part of a larger move by the government to shut down the entire industry.

MMJ professionals across the country will be watching these lawsuits closely, as they could have a huge bearing on the future of medical marijuana, one way or the other.