Articles Posted in Federal Enforcement/ California Marijuana

There is no question that more of the American public supports medical marijuana and the legalization of cannabis for recreational use than at any other point in our nation’s history.  Currently, more than half of all U.S. states and the District of Columbia have legalized marijuana for either medical use, recreational use, or both.

brief caseHowever, despite the growing wave of support behind the legalization movement, there are some who oppose medical cannabis or recreational use of cannabis.  Some of these opponents have formed their own political action groups to work to challenge state bills and direct voter action campaigns.  According to a recent news article from the Los Angeles Times, one of these groups may be facing trouble related to alleged campaign finance violations. Continue reading

While a number of new states recently voted to expand marijuana rights, many did not realize that this could directly conflict with their Second Amendment right to purchase a firearm. gun

That’s because federal law – specifically 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(3), which is part of the Gun Control Act – criminalizes the possession or receipt of a firearm by an unlawful drug user or person addicted to a controlled substance. Of course, many states have now legalized the drug, but it still remains outlawed by federal statute. Those purchasing a new firearm are asked to fill out federal background check forms that specifically ask whether the purchaser uses marijuana for recreational or medicinal purposes. If they do, they are not allowed to purchase the gun.

This conflict was recently questioned by Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, a Republican who says she didn’t vote in favor of marijuana, but now she is worried about its impact on the Second Amendment rights of citizens. Recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ruled in Wilson v. Lynch that the Second Amendment rights of a Nevada woman were not infringed by the federal government’s ban on sales of guns to medical marijuana card holders. The ruling is applicable to nine other states, including California.  Continue reading

The first federal marijuana possession case prosecuted in Oregon in five years involves a teenager who is facing up to one year in prison for having just a single gram of the plant. handcuffs2

According to The Washington Post, the 19-year-old recent high school graduate is preparing for college this fall. But at the same time, he’s facing down a possible federal prison sentence that could derail his future.

Bear in mind: This is the state where the drug has been legal for adult recreational use since 2014. But state law has never reconciled with federal law, which still classifies it as a Schedule I narcotic, which means it’s on par with heroin. Back in 2013, the U.S. Justice Department issued a memorandum that announced a hands-off policy with regard to state-level cannabis laws. However, that memo included a provision that directed prosecutors to continue taking on cases that involve distributing marijuana to minors. And that’s where this case picks up.  Continue reading

There is no question that playing professional football results in a lot of injuries.  It has gotten to the point where you cannot watch a single game without seeing at least one, and often multiple, players being carted off the field on a golf cart and taken for an X-ray or MRI. In addition to all the joint and bone injuries, there are the head injuries, including those resulting in concussion, which have gotten a lot of press lately.

cannabisflower1It is well-known that when a player tests positive for marijuana, they will face a suspension of usually one or two games.  If they test positive a second time, it can lead to a suspension of eight or more games.  Basically, these players can miss a half season or more for using marijuana, even in the off season.  Continue reading

The California marijuana industry just scored a stunning victory as federal prosecutors announced an end to a years-long fight to shutter and seize the assets of Harborside Health Center in Oakland. With some 100,000 patients, the center is the biggest marijuana dispensary in the nation.marijuana2

Now, federal prosecutors say they are giving up.

The center had been the subject of scorn by former U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag since 2012. The effort to shut down the dispensary was part of a bigger mission to close down the entire medical marijuana industry in California. This decision has shown that effort now to have been unsuccessful.  Continue reading

A man awaiting sentencing following a federal marijuana cultivation conviction is arguing on appeal that a Congressional action should have halted his prosecution long before he was convicted. handcuffs6

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit is expected to rule on the case soon, and the outcome could have a significant impact on the future of federal marijuana prosecutions of medical marijuana dispensaries and users in the eight Western states that allow them. It also would overturn or stop half a dozen federal marijuana convictions/ prosecutions in both California and Washington.

Last year, a jury in a Washington state federal court convicted Rolland Gregg, his former wife and his mother for growing about 70 marijuana plants on their property in Washington. The family has insisted in the three years since their arrest that they were doing nothing wrong because that all the marijuana they grew was for the purpose of their own private medicinal use. They insist their actions 100 percent complied with state law. The problem, in the eyes of the government, is that marijuana cultivation is not legal under federal law. So according to prosecutors, it didn’t matter that the actions of Gregg and the others met state law standards.  Continue reading

Those who face arrest for marijuana-related crimes may be given the opportunity to negotiate a plea bargain. Plea bargaining can appear to be a better option than taking your chances in court, especially if you are facing federal charges as most drug defendants face in California since the state has decriminalized most types of cannabis offenses. Before you enter into a plea deal, however, it is imperative that you make the most informed choices and fully understand the long-term consequences of the decision you are making. handcuff-1425387.jpg
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California has allowed medicinal marijuana use for two decades and is moving towards allowing recreational use of cannabis if a 2016 ballot initiative passes. This does not, however, mean those who grow or sell cannabis in California are immune from the threat of prosecution. The federal government still interferes with legal marijuana businesses in the state, even as Congress has passed restrictions preventing the Department of Justice from using any of its funds to interfere with marijuana businesses which are legal within the state. police-action-1618280.jpg

For those who face any federal charges for drug-related offenses, the consequences can be very serious. Many non-violent drug defendants have been sentenced to harsh criminal penalties, and will continue to be sentenced to lengthy prison terms if they are convicted of federal offenses. A big part of the reason why drug defendants on the federal level face such harsh penalties is because the Federal Sentencing Guidelines focus strongly on imprisonment. A recent article published on Social Science Research Network and prepared by officials from U.S. District Courts explores how the federal sentencing guidelines have contributed to mass incarceration, and to harsh penalties for drug defendants.
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The Asset Forfeiture Program operated by the Department of Justice has long been controversial. Civil asset forfeiture regulations allow officials to seize property and money if it is believed the money comes from illegal activities, including activities related to the cultivation or sale of cannabis products. Civil forfeiture cases allow for the seizure of assets if a case can be made based on a preponderance of the evidence, which is the lowest burden of proof in the justice system (and much lower than the beyond a reasonable doubt standard used in criminal cases). money-1239608.jpg

Not only do regulations make it easy for officials to seize property, but the DOJ’s Asset Forfeiture Program actually incentivized local law enforcement to make seizures by allowing local law enforcement organizations to keep up to 80 percent of the value of assets obtained in joint federal-local operations. This program led to more asset forfeitures, and allowed local law enforcement to circumvent efforts in their own states to put a stop to abuses of the civil forfeiture system. Now, however, Washington Post reports DOJ is suspending the equitable sharing program and local law enforcement will no longer receive a share of federal funds which are confiscated through the civil forfeiture process.
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Congress passed on omnibus spending bill in December of 2015, which included some significant reforms and changes to federal drug policy. While the spending bill did not give advocates for marijuana-law reform everything they wanted, the spending bill did incorporate some important legislation that provides protection to patients who use medical marijuana. law-series-4-1467436.jpg

Although federal drug laws need significant reforms, the inclusion of various amendments and provisions in the Omnibus Bill are at least baby steps towards changing the burdensome federal laws which make criminals out of people who are in full compliance with their own state’s rules on medical marijuana use.
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