Appeals court: DOJ can’t prosecute state-legal MJ businesses

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In a big win for licensed marijuana companies, a federal appeals court in California ruled Tuesday that the U.S. Department of Justice can’t spend money to prosecute cannabis businesses that comply with state laws.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled that the DOJ must comply with the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, which Congress first adopted in December 2014. It prohibits the DOJ from spending federal funds to interfere with the implementation of state marijuana laws.

The case wound up before the court, which covers nine western states, because defendants in 10 cannabis-related cases in California and Washington State all relied on the same defense strategy: that the DOJ was acting illegally because of the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, Reuters reported.

The 9th Circuit Court basically agreed, and sent the cases back to lower courts to determine whether or not each defendant had strictly complied with state law.

The ruling, however, came with a warning from one of the court’s three judges.

“Congress could restore funding tomorrow, a year from now, or four years from now,” wrote Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain, “and the government could then prosecute these individuals who committed offenses while the government lacked funding.”