Cannabis has won yet another decisive victory, this time in a federal court. The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals handed down a decision that marks a turning point in federal prosecutions of cannabis dispensaries and growers. Despite half the states in the union deciding to buck federal law and allow for the cultivation and distribution of cannabis as part of a medical marijuana program, the Department of Justice has their own agenda. Or they had, at least. The court is forcing the Department of Justice to prove that the cases they have pending against medical marijuana businesses were in violation of state law, before allowing the cases to move forward.

This decision is a huge victory for all marijuana businesses and users who have had to worry about federal prosecution, despite following state guidelines. While more progressive states like Colorado and Washington have decided to bypass federal law and allow cannabis businesses to operate, the DEA and the Justice Department have continued to bring federal level prosecutions against lawfully operating businesses. This is the death blow for federal prosecutions of cannabis businesses. Congress had previously passed legislation preventing the funding of federal prosecutions of lawful businesses, however the Justice Department argued their belief that their law did not apply to individuals who violate federal law.

The court rejected this argument, with Judge Diarmuid F. O’Scannlain writing, “If DOJ wishes to continue these prosecutions, Appellants are entitled to evidentiary hearings to determine whether their conduct was completely authorized by state law, by which we mean that they strictly complied with all relevant conditions imposed by state law on the use, distribution, possession, and cultivation of medical marijuana.” Fundamentally, the court acknowledged the rights of individuals who obey state law to cultivate and engage in cannabis business.

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