Since late last year, the U.S. Justice Department has sent hundreds of letters to landlords throughout California who rent or lease property to medical marijuana dispensaries. The result has been a wave of shutdowns of facilities that are authorized by California law but are not immune to crackdowns by the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).
Since it was approved by voters in 1996, California’s Compassionate Use Act (Proposition 215) has permitted medical marijuana access to people who receive a physician’s prescription. More recently, the Medical Marijuana Program Act expanded protections from criminal prosecution by defining presumptively legal quantities of mature plants or dried cannabis. Yet despite calls for federal authorities to respect state laws that have instituted a perfectly legitimate treatment for patients, the DEA has continued enforcement actions against the commercialization of medical marijuana in California.
Several bills before Congress would ensure that federal investigators and prosecutors allow citizens of states with progressive marijuana laws to exercise their legal rights. While these bills have not fared well during a national election year, they are an indication of bipartisan support for a clear states’ rights issue:
- House Bill 1983, the States’ Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act, provides for rescheduling of marijuana in the federal criminal code for the use of medical marijuana in accordance with various state laws
- House Bill 1984, the Small Business Banking Improvement Act, includes a provision that would protect financial institutions that accept deposits made by owners of medical marijuana dispensaries
- House Bill 1985, the Small Business Tax Equity Act, would amend the IRS tax code to allow businesses to deduct expenses associated with selling marijuana to patients for medical purposes as authorized by state laws
These proposed bills highlight the fact that the DEA can disrupt the marijuana economy without directly taking on its most sympathetic participants: the people who use medical marijuana to treat conditions such as glaucoma, multiple sclerosis and the side effects of chemotherapy.
Defending State Laws and the Rights of Those Accused of Drug Offenses
Medical marijuana patients or their family members can find themselves under suspicion of marijuana-related offenses such as possession or intent to sell. As California criminal defense attorneys join the call for federal acknowledgment of state medical marijuana laws, they can also aggressively defend clients’ rights against illegal searches and other constitutional protections.