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Various Authors 4:09 p.m., May 27
Medical marijuana advocacy group Americans for Safe Access announced today that it has filed suit against the Obama administration, arguing that the Department of Justice has “instituted a policy to dismantle the medical marijuana laws of the State of California and to coerce its municipalities to pass bans on medical marijuana dispensaries.”
Although attorney general Eric Holder stated early during Obama’s presidency that prosecutors would not target medical marijuana patients or providers in compliance with state laws, pressure has steadily been increased in recent months as marijuana dispensaries have proliferated in the past two years. On October 7, California’s four U.S. attorneys announced that they would begin targeting cannabis growers and distributors. Threats have also been made that property owners who rent to dispensaries and even magazines that advertise the collectives could face charges.
But these increased enforcement activities aren’t the focus of the lawsuit.
“Although the Obama Administration is entitled to enforce federal marijuana laws, the Tenth Amendment forbids it from using coercive tactics to commandeer the law-making functions of the State,” said ASA chief counsel Joe Elford. “This case is aimed at restoring California's sovereign and constitutional right to establish its own public health laws based on this country's federalist principles.”
In recent months, the U.S. attorney has also been threatening that cities, and their officials, could face federal sanctions if they attempt to implement laws controlling medical marijuana, such as zoning guidelines or dispensary regulations. The California cities of Chico, Eureka, Arcata, Sacramento, and El Centro have all received letters warning them about implementing laws to control marijuana that are not in compliance with federal policy.
On July 25, the city of San Diego overturned a zoning ordinance of its own that passed in April, rather than face a ballot challenge from cannabis advocates challenging its strictness.