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Federal judge rules medical marijuana providers not shielded from federal prosecution

A judge for the US District Court for the Eastern District of California [official website] on Tuesday dismissed [order, PDF] a lawsuit challenging the US Attorney's authority to prosecute medical marijuana [JURIST news archive] providers in the state. The suit was filed by the El Camino Wellness Center Collective [website; Facebook page], a Sacramento dispensary and a medical marijuana user. The plaintiffs relied on a 2009 memorandum [text, PDF] from the Deputy Attorney General directing all US attorneys to avoid allocating resources to the prosecution [JURIST report] of "individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana." In his order, Judge Garland Burrell ruled that the memorandum was not legally enforceable. In a statement [text] on its Facebook page, the El Camino Wellness Center said they were disappointed with the court's decision and they planned to appeal. This lawsuit is one of four similar suits filed in California after US Attorneys in the state announced their intent to prosecute medical marijuana dispensaries.

Federal courts have been cracking down on state medical marijuana laws recently. In January, a federal judge in the US District Court for the District of Montana [official website] ruled [JURIST report] that the state's medical marijuana law does not protect providers of the drug from federal prosecution. Earlier in January the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] was granted a motion to dismiss [JURIST report] a lawsuit brought by the Arizona Governor. The governor argued an Arizona medical marijuana law placed lawmakers at risk of federal prosecution for implementing the law. In October, medical marijuana advocates filed suit [JURIST report] in a California federal court seeking relief against the federal government for its crackdown on marijuana dispensaries in the state. In June, a judge in Ontario stayed a ruling [JURIST report] finding that the country's marijuana laws were unconstitutional. In January 2010, the California Supreme Court [official website] overturned [JURIST report] a 2003 law limiting the amount of marijuana that may be possessed under the state's Medical Marijuana Program (MMP) [materials].

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Paper Chase is JURIST's real-time legal news service, powered by a team of 30 law student reporters and editors led by law professor Bernard Hibbitts at the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. As an educational service, Paper Chase is dedicated to presenting important legal news and materials rapidly, objectively and intelligibly in an accessible format.

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