Both sides of the political aisle are coming together at the federal level to increase protections for medical marijuana patients who are prosecuted due to the legal conflict between state and federal government about whether it’s use, possession, purchase and sale is legal.
It’s sponsored by California Democrat Rep. Sam Farr, but it’s also supported by 18 other co-sponsors (so far), including Ron Paul, a Republican from Texas, and Barney Frank, a Democrat from Massachusetts.
The measure would allow medical marijuana patients who are licensed by the state to have the right to provide what would be known as an “affirmative defense” if they are prosecuted for a federal marijuana-related offense. This would allow them to show that even if their actions were illegal in the eyes of the feds, they were protected by state law.
The measure also details in quite specific language that all marijuana plants that are legally grown according to state law can’t be seized by the federal government. It would also provide that if marijuana was seized by the government as part of an investigation, the drug would legally be considered property, which would mean federal authorities would have to maintain it rather than destroy it, as is the current common protocol. If the defendant is able to prove the marijuana was grown, obtained and used legally according to state law, authorities would have to return it just like any other property.
The measure comes amid an ongoing crackdown by the federal government against marijuana dispensaries and their landlords.
It’s actually the second time such a measure was introduced. The first time it was debated back in 2003. However, because the federal government is now acting to shut down dispensaries en mass, it appears to have a greater sense of urgency that is prompting more lawmakers to throw their support behind it.
So often we talk about how the dispensaries have been affected by the crackdown. It’s equally important to talk about the approximately 70 medical marijuana patients who have been indicted on federal drug charges since last October, when the push began.
As it stands right now in federal court, medical marijuana providers and patients aren’t allowed to present evidence showing they were complying with state laws. In fact, federal prosecutors are able to exclude all evidence of state law entirely. So someone who is registered, has a physician’s prescription and is growing and purchasing his or her medicine according to the legal standards of the state will be prosecuted the same as anyone else in the country who possesses or buys marijuana.
The majority of those cases end in a plea bargain because they’ve essentially given the defendant nothing to fight.
These individuals are serving sentences even though they were following state law.
Farr was quoted as saying that the federal government has essentially tipped the scales of justice in favor of a conviction by failing to allow a person or provider to present evidence showing they were complying with state law.
“Juries should hear the entire story,” he said.
The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.
H.R. 6134, U.S. House of Representatives