An upcoming ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit could restrict the application of federal drug laws in states that allow medical marijuana, the Associated Press reported on May 8, 2016.
If the court rules to limit the application of U.S. laws, several Washington and California residents facing jail time under federal statutes could see their convictions overturned.
Sam Kamin, a professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law, said, “The 9th Circuit is the biggest circuit, one that contains lots of marijuana states. If they were to say, ‘The federal government is prohibited from enforcing medical marijuana law,’ that would be huge.”
Some of those convicted under federal law are pointing to a Congressional amendment that said the U.S. Department of Justice could not use 2015 and 2016 funds from Congress to prosecute medical marijuana cases in states that allow it.
Phil Telfeyan, an attorney for a Washington man facing a federal sentence for owning about 70 marijuana plants for medical purposes, said his client is not among the cases to be addressed in the 9th Circuit ruling, but he has the same argument as the defendants.
“The feds think they have the power to override voters of the State of Washington and the will of Congress,” said Telfeyan. “It’s up to the 9th Circuit to tell them, ‘Enough is enough. You can’t keep prosecuting people who are using medical marijuana for their needs.'”