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Medical Marijuana Lawyers Sue Feds to Block Crackdown

The medical pot industry hits back through the courts against prosecutors' recent threats in California.

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Medical marijuna isn't through the woods yet.
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By Zac Curtis

11/08/11

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Lawyers for marijuana dispensaries, growers and their landlords are hitting back against the Feds' latest crackdown on California’s thriving medical pot industry. They're asking judges in four districts today for temporary restraining orders to block federal prosecutions. The orders could be granted or denied immediately—or future hearings could be scheduled. The move comes after prosecutors wrote to many dispensaries in September, telling them to shut down or face civil and criminal charges: marijuana is still illegal on a federal level, even though a number of states allow medical use. Californian and federal forces have been at odds since 1996, when the Golden State became the first to allow medical marijuana sales. The dispensaries were told they had 45 days to halt sales. For many, that time runs out Saturday. One of the dispensaries' lawyers, Matthew Kumin, said “The government’s irrational policy has reached a breaking point. The federal government said it will not prosecute patients, and yet they want to shut off their supply. This doesn’t make sense.” Their case leans on the constitution: the commerce clause, for example, grants Congress the power to “regulate Commerce ... among the Several states.” That's often read as stipulating federal regulation of between states, rather than within them. And then there's the Tenth Amendment: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” But prosecutors contend that behind a medical facade, many dispensaries deal marijuana illicitly to anyone who'll buy it.

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