Lawsuit Contests Federally-Ordered Marijuana Closures

The challenge follows an Oct. 7 federal crackdown during which several medical marijuana dispensaries across the state were given 45 days to close. Dispensaries in and near Murrieta were among those affected.

Despite --including a dispensary in Murrieta--the courts may decide whether the federal action is legal.

Americans for Safe Access, the country's largest medical marijuana advocacy organization, filed suit in federal court Thursday challenging the Obama Administration's attempt to subvert local and state medical marijuana laws in California.

ASA argues in its lawsuit that the Justice Department 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."

In Riverside County, medical marijuana dispensaries are banned. Murrieta, Lake Elsinore, Temecula and Wildomar have also banned them. The only city in the county to allow dispensaries is Palm Springs.

While Murrieta's ban on dispensaries has been in place since 2005, City Council unanimously on them.

The moratorium comes after a dispensary, CMG Outreach, opened in July in Murrieta despite the municipal ban. The dispensary has been shut down twice by court order, and faced daily code enforcement fines while in operation.

According to a city staff report, "cities and counties are awaiting additional pending appellate court decisions which may further guide local jurisdictions on their authority with regard to medical marijuana storefront dispensaries."

In the lawsuit filed Thursday, which could further convolute the issue, ASA accuses the Obama Administration of commandeering California's legislative function and interfering with local laws.

The legal action, however, stops short of challenging the federal government's authority to adopt and enforce federal marijuana laws.

"It is, rather, the ... misuse of the government's Commerce Clause powers, designed to deprive the State of its sovereign ability to chart a separate course, that forms the basis of plaintiff's claims," the lawsuit states.

"Although the Obama Administration is entitled to enforce federal marijuana laws, the 10th Amendment forbids it from using coercive tactics to commandeer the law-making functions of the State," said ASA Chief Counsel Joe Elford, who filed the lawsuit Thursday in San Francisco's federal District Court.

"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," Elford said.

On Oct. 7, California's four U.S. Attorneys announced in a joint press conference that the DOJ would overstep the State's medical marijuana laws and take enforcement action against marijuana producers and distributors as well as their landlords. Operators were given 45 days to close shop. 

The ASA lawsuit, which seeks declaratory and injunctive relief, was filed on behalf of its 20,000 members in California.

Last week, State Attorney General Kamala Harris renounced the federal government’s tactics, claiming that "an overly broad federal enforcement campaign will make it more difficult for legitimate patients to access physician-recommended medicine."

As California's legal tangle over medical marijuana continues, legislation was introduced this summer to remove cannabis from the schedules of controlled substances.

Introduced June 23, HR 2306--otherwise known as the Ending Federal Prohibition of Marijuana Act--is sponsored by Massachusetts Democrat Barney Frank and Texas Republican Ron Paul along with others.

Maggie Avants contributed to this report.

Galactic Cannibal October 29, 2011 at 07:53 PM
Why all this paranoia over Marijuana ? Its a natural weed unlike booze which is processed Booze is responsible for premature deaths of hundreds thousands of drinkers each year in the US. There is no record of marijuana killing a user anywhere. Millions of Americans use marijuana as they prefer it to other brain stimulants, and they are all breaking the law . How ridiculous is that. The Feds in my opinion are out of control and differ only from Hitler's SS by the color of their badge.. Wake up America and fight back , before we wind up in a "Land of Control" and not "land of the free". Its no longer that free . Try drinking a can of beer at the beach's .. You will be arrested handcuffed . taken to jail, and your car impounded.. Land of the free ..its a joke.
Paul October 30, 2011 at 08:47 AM
"WASHINGTON, DC -- Late Friday night the White House issued a typical evasive rejection of the several marijuana legalization petitions that collected more signatures than any other issue on its "We the People" website. Even though recent polls show that more voters support marijuana legalization than approve of President Obama's job performance, the White House categorically dismissed the notion of reforming any laws, focusing its response on the possible harms of marijuana use instead of addressing the many harms of prohibition detailed in the petitions." (Copied from a news source)
Conservative Christian October 31, 2011 at 02:18 AM
Jesus said to do unto others as we would have them to do unto us. None of us would want our child or grandchild thrown in jail with the sexual predators over marijuana. None of us would want to see an older family member’s home confiscated and sold by the police for growing a couple of marijuana plants for their aches and pains. It’s time to stop putting our own family members in jail over marijuana. If ordinary Americans could grow a little marijuana in their own back yards, it would be about as valuable as home-grown tomatoes. Let's put the criminals out of business and get them out of our neighborhoods. Let's let ordinary Americans grow a little marijuana in their own back yards. Here's one way that IT IS REALLY WORKING: Arresting the criminals and collecting a fee from registered growers (and bringing in thousands of dollars to support the county budget); what a great plan! This is the way to build a better America! http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/2011/07/the-pot-republic-one-sheriffs-quietly-radical-experiment.html The current proposal before Congress, bill HR 2306, will allow states to decide how they will regulate marijuana. You can email your Congressperson and Senators at http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml to discuss HR 2306. And a big THANK YOU to the courageous, freedom loving legislators, governors, and countless others who are working so hard to bring this through! You’re doing a great patriotic service for all of America!
e w October 31, 2011 at 04:08 PM
It is high time (pun intended), that we stand for our rights! The fedgov's drug policy can't actually exist in America until they destroy the Constitution (halfway there)... We the people have the responsibility to ignore and overthrow this decision, and stop believing these rich criminals and mobsters that call themselves representatives! I am the generation without representation, and none of them care, all it takes is a few thousand dollars to buy these cowards beliefs and moral standards and make them our own, too bad there isn't that much left in our entire nation! So, as I tip my glass and watch these idiots make us the weakest country in the world, I hope all the assholes that wouldn't stand for their rights are the first prisoners of the countries that will soon own us.
LBV Collins October 31, 2011 at 05:22 PM
It’s maddening to know that the majority of Americans support marijuana legalization, yet our Federal Government still chooses to wage a Drug War on its own citizens. According to an August 2011 Angus-Reid poll, 55% of Americans believe marijuana should be legalized. [1] And according to a more recent October 2011 Gallop poll “A record-high 50% of Americans now say the use of marijuana should be made legal, up from 46% last year.” That's also up from 30% in 2000 and 40% in 2009. [2] 1. http://www.angus-reid.com/polls/43975/majority-of-americans-ready-to-legalize-marijuana/ 2. http://www.gallup.com/poll/150149/Record-High-Americans-Favor-Legalizing-Marijuana.aspx
LBV Collins October 31, 2011 at 05:23 PM
Reps. Barney Frank and Ron Paul introduced HR 2306 to remove marijuana from the Controlled Substances Act, thus removing pot from the Fed’s purview and allowing the States to deal with it as they see fit. Unfortunately the bill sits in committee where “Rep. Lamar Smith, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, said his panel will not take up the bipartisan legislation, which would effectively kill it for lack of action. ‘Instead of encouraging the use of marijuana, we should strengthen enforcement of federal drug laws to protect Americans from the devastating effects of drug use,’ said Smith, R-San Antonio.” [3] And Smith wasn’t joking. He sponsored (and his House Judiciary Committee passed on October 6, 2011) HR 313, the Drug Trafficking Safe Harbor Elimination Act, on a 20-7 vote. According to opponents, “Under this bill, if a young couple plans a wedding in Amsterdam, and as part of the wedding, they plan to buy the bridal party some marijuana, they would be subject to prosecution..." even though smoking marijuana is legal in Amsterdam. [4] 3. http://www.theweedblog.com/marijuana-legalizaiton-advocates-hound-rep-lamar-smith/ 4. http://www.theweedblog.com/lamar-smiths-bill-to-extend-us-drug-laws-overseas-making-progress-passes-committee/
Chas Holman November 01, 2011 at 04:18 AM
So let me get this strait.. Mr Obama has became somewhat famous fo rhis hosting big photo op 'beer' summits. Him and his table engaged in conversation, at the table in front of each of them are pints of beer. Dark beer, light beer, I even saw a guy with a red beer in one of the photo's. Yes our President loves his beer summit.. my 9 year old even clipped one of the photos of the President with his beer in hand for his 'day in the news' school project. How cute is that. All that public beer consumption, and the President has the audacity to tell his Drug Czar last week to inform the nation that it shall remain his administrations policy to continue Richard Nixon's policy of making sure our youth keep tossed into the prison system because marijuana is bad for them. Disgusting and contemptible hypocrisy as far as the eye can see.
Popeye November 01, 2011 at 12:47 PM
Federal government isn't going against Murrieta/temecula law MJ dispensaries. They are illegal in these cities.
Tonto November 01, 2011 at 02:16 PM
Our government only allows Mexico to bring in weed and sell it. Non tax no less :(


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