In U.S. v. McIntosh, No.15-10117, the Ninth Circuit held today that the Appropriations Act passed by Congress bars the federal government from prosecuting medical marijuana cases that comply with state law. And from a conservative "states' rights" panel. Here is the opinion's summary:
In ten consolidated interlocutory appeals and petitions for writs of mandamus arising from three district courts in two states, the panel vacated the district court’s orders denying relief to the appellants, who have been indicted for violating the Controlled Substances Act, and who sought dismissal of their indictments or to enjoin their prosecutions on the basis of a congressional appropriations rider, Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2016, Pub. L. No. 114-113, § 542, 129 Stat. 2242, 2332-33 (2015), that prohibits the Department of Justice from spending funds to prevent states’ implementation of their medical marijuana laws.
The panel held that it has jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1292(a)(1) to consider the interlocutory appeals from these direct denials of requests for injunctions, and that the appellants have standing to invoke separation-of-powers provisions of the Constitution to challenge their criminal prosecutions.
The panel held that § 542 prohibits DOJ from spending funds from relevant appropriations acts for the prosecution of individuals who engaged in conduct permitted by state medical marijuana laws and who fully complied with such laws. The panel wrote that individuals who do not strictly comply with all state-law conditions regarding the use, distribution, possession, and cultivation of medical marijuana have engaged in conduct that is unauthorized, and that prosecuting such individuals does not violate § 542.
Remanding to the district courts, the panel instructed that if DOJ wishes to continue these prosecutions, the appellants are entitled to evidentiary hearings to determine whether their conduct was completely authorized by state law. The panel wrote that in determining the appropriate remedy for any violation of § 542, the district courts should consider the temporal nature of the lack of funds along with the appellants’ rights to a speedy trial.