Last August, a group of medical practitioners and pharmaceutical manufacturers filed suit against the federal government in U.S. District Court. They claimed the feds violated their rights by sending armed agents into their businesses and, according to a report in the Santa Fe New Mexican “‘seized and destroyed thousands of live plants,’ and ‘took away hundreds of pounds of dried marijuana’ during a March 2011 raid on licensed producers, and stripped certain providers of lights and other equipment used to grow and distribute the herb, which caused […] significant financial damage.”
But the district court dismissed the plaintiffs’ claims, saying the issue had “already been decided.”
However, as Daniel Abrahamson notes, medical marijuana hasn’t really been decided by the courts, as most of the relevant cases haven’t actually been argued in court. In nearly all cases, the parties have settled or withdrawn their appeals. So it would appear to be an open question, ripe for such a challenge.
The group hopes they’ll have their chance to advance their case later this year in the 9th Circuit Court. One of the chief complaints raised by attorney Paul Livingston, who represents this Montana group, is that “It is truly astonishing that so much weight is given, so many actions taken, and so much reliance placed on a demonstrably false notion; that marijuana has no known medical uses.”
But the main thrust of their case doesn’t rest solely on the medical science regarding cannabis, the 10th Amendment will also be key to their argument. Livingston will attempt to show that both the power to police and provide safety to the public lie not with the Feds, but with the several states. Such a two-pronged approach ought to be the most effective, insomuch as petitioning the government courts to limit their own powers is concerned.
Courts have relied on at least quasi-scientific arguments in the past, so it is possible this will have some sway, since it seems simple arguments as “the Feds have no authority” don’t seem to be as compelling on their own with the arbitration agents of the state.
A really encouraging aspect of this story is that, according to Abrahamson, more such cases invoking the 10th will be filed over the coming years. Not only is this a good indicator that more people are inclined to challenge the Feds over bill of rights violations, but another bit of hopeful news is that federal laws banning marijuana, specifically for medicinal purposes, but for recreational use as well, are increasingly becoming the subject of ridicule. Livingston said such prohibitions “[create] less respect for federal laws and courts.” And that’s what we need: disrespect for unrespectable “laws.”