The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit has handed medical marijuana patients a huge legal victory, barring the federal government from prosecuting patients, growers, and dispensaries that follow state medical marijuana laws, reports Slate. The emphatic decision may finally persuade the Department of Justice to halt its campaign against medical marijuana, which remains illegal under federal law but has been legalized in 25 states and the District of Columbia. It came just a few days after the Obama administration permitted many more research institutions to grow the plant and use it in clinical trials.
At issue in Tuesday’s decision is a congressional appropriations bill passed in 2015 and renewed in 2016 that barred the DOJ from spending any funds in a way that would prevent states from “implementing their own State laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.” DOJ argued that the rider did not, in fact, impede its prosecution of those involved with medical marijuana: The department argued that it could still go after individual patients, growers, and dispensaries, because scattered prosecutions would not block the state from implementing its medical marijuana laws more broadly. The Ninth Circuit vigorously rejected this argument in an opinion by Judge Diarmuid O’Scannlain, a Ronald Reagan appointee.