Lawyers for medical marijuana patients, dispensaries and landlords today announced a new set of lawsuits challenging the current federal crackdown on cannabis enterprises in California.
Attorneys Matthew Kumin and David Michael said at a news conference in San Francisco that lawsuits were filed Friday and today in each of the four federal court districts in the state.
In U.S. District Court in San Francisco, a lawsuit was filed Friday on behalf of the Marin Alliance for Medical Marijuana and patient John D’Amato. It was assigned to U.S. Magistrate Judge Donna Ryu of Oakland.
Similar lawsuits with different local plaintiffs were filed Friday in Sacramento and Los Angeles and today in San Diego, the attorneys said.
“This is a multi-pronged, organized effort to get into court and to send a message to the federal government that we need to stop the aggression and sit down and talk reasonably about these issues,” Kumin said.
Like another lawsuit filed last month by Americans for Safe Access, a patient advocacy group, the new cases challenge an enforcement effort announced Oct. 7 by the four regional U.S. attorneys in California.
The federal initiative includes threats of criminal prosecution and civil forfeiture against landlords as well as operators of dispensaries.
The U.S. prosecutors said last month they are targeting large, profit-making commercial enterprises and not seriously ill individual patients who use the drug under California’s Compassionate Use Act.
But the new lawsuits claim the federal actions “will eviscerate and likely eradicate California’s medical marijuana program.”
Kumin and Michael said the new lawsuits differ from the Americans for Safe Access case in that they ask for an immediate temporary restraining order blocking the federal effort.
There was no word today on whether or when a hearing on the request for a temporary restraining order will be held.
Both the new cases and the Americans for Safe Access lawsuit also seek a preliminary injunction, a later legal step that would normally not be considered by a judge for at least several weeks after both sides have filed further materials.
The new lawsuits also emphasize a different legal theory.
They claim the government should be bound by a 2009 Justice Department guidance document for U.S. attorneys that stated prosecution of seriously ill patients who use marijuana in compliance with state law “is unlikely to be an efficient use of limited federal resources.”
The Americans for Safe Access case, by contrast, emphasizes an argument that the federal enforcement efforts violate the 10th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution by intruding on state sovereignty.
Justice Department spokeswoman Laura Sweeney said the department could not comment on the new lawsuits outside of court.
The defendants in the San Francisco lawsuit are Attorney General Eric Holder, U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration chief Michelle Leonhart and U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag of San Francisco.
Federal laws criminalizing the use of marijuana make no exception for state medical marijuana laws.
Julia Cheever, Bay City News