Safe Streets Alliance et al. v. John Hickenlooper, et al. – Good News, Bad News

C1_8734_r_xA ruling issued on June 7th by the US Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, in response to a series of legal challenges to Colorado’s adult cannabis use regulations, includes both good news and bad news.

The Good News

Most importantly for the legalization movement nationwide, the appeals court rejected the argument raised by the states of Nebraska and Oklahoma that Amendment 64 in Colorado, the voter initiative that legalized and regulated the adult use of marijuana, was preempted by the federal Controlled Substances Act. That argument, made by these neighboring states, if accepted by the court, would have voided Amendment 64.

It should be noted that this was not a definitive ruling on the federal preemption argument. Rather, it was a procedural ruling, finding that only the US Supreme Court has jurisdiction to hear disputes between the states. (The Supreme Court declined to consider a similar challenge in 2016.)

In fact, it was only after the Supreme Court had rejected their motion that the two states elected to raise these same issues with the 10th Circuit, by filing a motion to intervene in the Safe Streets case.

Also a big win, the Circuit Court rejected a similar attempt by a group of sheriffs and prosecutors from Colorado, Kansas, and Nebraska to use the US Controlled Substances Act and the Supremacy Clause of the US Constitution to enjoin the enforcement of Amendment 64. The court found that the Supremacy Clause “does not give rise to a private right of action.”

Hopefully this will give pause to other anti-marijuana zealots out there who might wish to use the federal preemption argument to undermine the various state legalization laws.

The Bad News

The bad news is that the 10th Circuit did reinstate a civil RICO complaint filed by private landowners in Colorado against a state-licensed indoor cultivation center, alleging it had caused a noxious odor that damaged their property value. The appellate court remanded the case back to the US District Court for further proceedings to allow the plaintiffs to attempt to prove their RICO claims.

While this is necessarily concerning to those in the state-legal cultivation industry, since the problems presented by the odors emanating from large grow operations is a theme which has been raised in several Colorado communities, it likely does not open the floodgates for every neighbor to bring a RICO suit against any cultivation center. Rather it likely will accelerate the adoption of the most effective technology by cultivation centers to minimize the odor of marijuana.

In the court’s own words, “We are not suggesting that every private citizen purportedly aggrieved by another person, a group, or an enterprise that is manufacturing, distributing, selling, or using marijuana may pursue a claim under RICO. Nor are we implying that every person tangentially injured in his business or property by such activities has a viable RICO claim. Rather, we hold only that the Reillys alleged sufficient facts to plausibly establish the requisite elements of their claims against the Marijuana Growers here.”

Appeals Court: State-Sanctioned Marijuana Users Not Afforded Second Amendment Rights

marijuana_gavelJustices for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals today ruled in favor of a 1968 federal law prohibiting the sale of firearms to any “unlawful user” of a federally controlled substance.

Justices determined that state-registered medical marijuana patients are forbidden from purchasing firearms because cannabis remains classified as a Schedule I substance under federal law. They further opined that the ban “furthers the Government’s interest in preventing gun violence” because marijuana users “are more likely to be involved in violent crimes.”

They concluded, “[The plaintiff in this case] does not have a constitutionally protected liberty interest in simultaneously holding a [medical cannabis] registry card and purchasing a firearm.”

In 2011, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms issued a memorandum to all gun dealers in the United States specifying, “Any person who uses … marijuana, regardless of whether his or her state has passed legislation authorizing marijuana for medicinal purposes, is an unlawful user of or addicted to a controlled substance, and is prohibited by federal law from possessing firearms or ammunition.”

In response to today’s court ruling, NORML Deputy Director Paul Armentano said: “There is no credible justification for a ‘marijuana exception’ to the US Constitution. Responsible adults who use cannabis in a manner that is compliant with the laws of their states ought to receive the same legal rights and protections as do other citizens. It is incumbent that members of Congress act swiftly to amend cannabis’ criminal status in a way that comports with both public and scientific opinion, as well as its rapidly changing legal status under state laws.”

The Ninth Circuit decision, Wilson v Lynch et al., is available online here.

Bill to Legalize and Regulate Marijuana Introduced in Alabama

Many traditionally write off the Southern United States as an area dead to cannabis law reform, but one Representative is behind a new effort that can change all of that.

This week, Rep. Patricia Todd (D-Birmingham) has introduced House Bill 550, the Alabama Cannabis and Hemp Reform Act of 2013. This measure would legalize the possession of up to one ounce of marijuana and the cultivation of up to 12 mature marijuana plants by those over the age of 21. It would also authorize the Department of Revenue to establish marijuana retail outlets. You can read the full text of the measure here.

As many of you have seen, yesterday, Pew Research released new polling data that revealed, for the first time in data from a US based polling firm, that Americans support legalizing marijuana by over 50%. The survey found that 52% support legalization and only 45% were opposed. This is no longer just an issue relegated to states such as those on the West Coast and Colorado, traditionally considered bastions of marijuana law reform, this support is now nationwide.

As it very well should be, marijuana prohibition is a failed policy that squanders hundreds of millions of tax dollars a year, inversely affects society’s underprivileged, violates civil liberties, and fuels a violent, criminal black market responsible for countless deaths on our border as well as our local communities.

If states such as the traditionally conservative Alabama are beginning the discussion around alternatives to our failed prohibition of marijuana, the collapse of the drug war machine and its war on a green plant cannot be too far behind.

ALABAMA: If you live in Alabama click here to easily write your Representative and urge him or her to support this legislation!

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