Weekly Wrapup: Landmark Medical Cannabis Court Cases + Momentum in Massachusetts

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Legal developments dominated medical marijuana news last week, with a trio of important MMJ lawsuits making headlines:

#1. In Michigan, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in a case focused on the legality of dispensaries in the state. At issue is whether medical cannabis sales are allowed under Michigan’s medical marijuana law, which doesn’t specifically mention dispensaries or other distribution methods aside from caregivers allowed to serve a limited number of patients. A lower court previously ruled that the law does not permit dispensaries, throwing the industry into turmoil and forcing scores of dispensaries to close.

#2. In Arizona, the cannabis community is gearing up for the start of a court case pitting the medical marijuana industry against local government officials. Dispensaries are scheduled to open up in Arizona soon, but some officials are attempting to prevent that from happening and are hoping to dismantle the entire program.

#3. In California, the City of Oakland sued the federal government last week in an effort to prevent it from shutting down Harborside Health Center. U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag recently sent a warning letter to Harborside’s landlord threatening civil forfeiture if the dispensary is not evicted, claiming the operation is simply too big. The city, however, charges the federal government with “acting beyond its authority.”

These cases are very different from each other and reflect the unique challenges to MMJ in each area. But they will all likely have a significant impact on the medical marijuana industry in their respective statesAnd the lawsuits in Arizona and California could set legal precedents that will be used elsewhere to chart the course for MMJ.

Aside from these cases, the MMJ community is paying particularly close attention to a federal lawsuit that could help legitimize medical marijuana. On Tuesday, the US Court of Appeals will begin hearings on a lawsuit over the government’s classification of cannabis as a highly dangerous drug that does not have any medical benefits. Many MMJ advocates are hoping the federal government will reclassify the drug and recognize that it is indeed useful from a medical perspective.

Also last week, MMJ Business Daily wrote about the outlook for a medical marijuana initiative in Massachusetts. The measure appears set to win by a landslide and could garner the highest levels of voter support ever for a state MMJ measure. According to one poll, nearly 70% of likely voters support legalizing medical marijuana in the state. Even if the poll is off by a good measure, it still appears that Massachusetts will become the 18th state with MMJ laws.