California Police Chief- Fall 2013 - Page 9

United States Department of Justice from spending funds to prevent states ’ implementation of their own medical marijuana laws ?” As of now , the answer is “ yes .”
The Court explained that , at minimum , § 542 prohibits the DOJ from spending funds from relevant appropriations acts for the prosecution of individuals who engaged in conduct permitted by state medical marijuana laws and who fully complied with such laws .
However , the DOJ is not in violation of § 542 if it prosecutes individuals who do not strictly comply with state law conditions relating to the use , distribution , possession , or cultivation of medical marijuana , as such conduct is unauthorized .
The Court remanded the cases to the district courts , noting that , if DOJ desired to continue the prosecutions , Appellants were entitled to evidentiary hearings to determine whether or not they strictly complied with state law provisions relating to the use , distribution , possession , and cultivation of medical marijuana .
This decision prevents the federal government from using federal funds to prosecute persons who comply with their states ’ medical marijuana laws . It has no impact on a state ’ s authority to prosecute violations of state law , but it does mean that the federal government will be of no help to local government .
However , the Court notes that this prohibition on the use of federal money could change at any moment . “ The government had authority to initiate criminal proceedings , and it merely lost funds to continue them . The DOJ is currently prohibited from spending funds from specific appropriations acts for prosecutions of those who complied with state law . But Congress could appropriate funds for such prosecutions tomorrow .”
Furthermore , in a footnote , the Court warns that marijuana is still illegal under federal law . “ The prior observation should also serve as a warning . To be clear , § 542 does not provide immunity from prosecution for federal marijuana offenses . The CSA prohibits the manufacture , distribution , and possession of marijuana . Anyone in any state who possesses , distributes , or manufactures marijuana for medical or recreational purposes ( or attempts or conspires to do so ) is committing a federal crime . The federal government can prosecute such offenses for up to five years after they occur .” ■
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