California Medical Marijuana Club Wins Big in Federal Court

Medical Marijuana (David McNew / Getty)
David McNew / Getty

A federal judge ruled Monday that the federal government cannot interfere with or shut down medical marijuana dispensaries if they are in compliance with state law, in a ruling that could have far-reaching implications for marijuana dispensaries nationwide.

United States District Judge Charles M. Breyer ruled that a federal injunction against Lynette Shaw and her dispensary, the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana (MAMM), was unenforceable, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.

“[T]he plain reading of [Congressional law] forbids the Department of Justice from enforcing this injunction against MAMM to the extent that MAMM operates in compliance with state California law,” Judge Breyer wrote in his ruling, adding: “The mayor of the Town of Fairfax [stated] MAMM was operating as a model business in careful compliance with its local use permit in a ‘cooperative and collaborative relationship’ with the community.”

Shaw opened the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana in the San Francisco area shortly after California passed Proposition 2015 in 1996, which legalized marijuana for medical purposes in the state. The club was the oldest-operating dispensary in the country before it was forced closed by the federal government in 2011.

Shaw’s attorney, Greg Anton, mounted a new legal battle against the government in June after the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment, which shields dispensaries operating in compliance with state law from federal prosecution, was attached to a spending bill and signed by President Obama in December of last year.

Shaw praised the court’s ruling, but said she would not be able to immediately re-open her dispensary. She has since started a GoFundMe crowdfunding campaign to raise money to re-open the shuttered club.

“We won the war,” Shaw told the Chronicle. “And I’m the first POW to be released.”

The ruling could have broad implications for medical marijuana dispensaries nationwide, and could prevent the federal government from going after pot shops that comply with state law, in those states where marijuana is legal.

Pro-marijuana groups hailed the ruling Monday. In a statement, the Drug Policy Alliance’s Bill Piper said that “there is a clear bipartisan majority in Congress for letting states set their own marijuana policies.”

“This court decision makes clear that the Justice Department is not above the law and must leave legal state medical marijuana dispensaries alone,” he added. “Cancer, MS, AIDS and other medical marijuana patients can sleep a little easier tonight knowing that a federal judge will protect them and the people providing them their medicine.”

Photo: file