How will 9th Circuit ruling affect Georgia’s stance on medical marijuana?

In regards to legalization of cultivation of marijuana, 11Alive quoted Chris Riley, the Governor’s Chief of Staff, saying in an email to Rep. Allen Peake during session this year, “As long as this product is a schedule I narcotic at the federal level we keep running into too many risk[s].”

Peake quickly responded with another plea, strongly advocating for his plan, and hoping to work toward a solution.

An hour later Riley responded with, “The governor respectfully disagrees as long as this product is a schedule I narcotic and a violation of federal law to possess.” The bill was then amended to remove those provisions most offensive to Federal law.

That’s a reasonable place to land. But what if the Department of Justice was prohibited from enforcing those laws in Georgia? 

That’s the promise held by a decision in the 9th Circuit yesterday, which states that the Department of Justice cannot prosecute people who are violating the Controlled Substances Act (which Riley references above) where that behavior is authorized by state law. In effect, that means that if you are in a state that has “legalized” medicinal use of marijuana, and you are acting in a way consistent with your state’s laws, you cannot be prosecuted under the Federal law.

Why, you ask? Because Congress included a rider in the appropriations bill that says DoJ can’t spend money prosecuting people for marijuana use that’s been authorized in their state (Appropriations Clause FTW!). So even though the actions remain illegal under Federal law, there are no consequences! We could do whatever we wanted!

However there’s a five year window on prosecutions, so unless Congress keeps putting that in the appropriations bill they’ll eventually get someone prosecuted. It would seem that DoJ could go directly after the state laws authorizing that which Federal law prohibits (Supremacy Clause, yada yada), but it would appear from my reading that they would only be doing so in order to prosecute people Federally again, which would violate the rider in the appropriations bill.

So, given the current state of Federal prosecutions of marijuana, should Georgia revisit its marijuana laws?

Leave a Reply

Please Login to comment
Notify of