Medical marijuana crackdown in California illegal because it's not happening in Colorado?
Yesterday, attorneys in California asked a court to issue a temporary restraining order to stop federal raids on pot dispensaries there.
This request makes a slew of legal arguments, one of which pivots on the lack of such federal actions in Colorado -- at least thus far. But as sympathetic as he is to the cause, attorney and marijuana advocate Brian Vicente doesn't hold out much hope that it will succeed.
As noted in the Washington Post article linked above, "The California lawsuits argue that the federal government is also violating the 14th Amendment of the Constitution requiring equal protection under the law because medical marijuana operations in Colorado are not facing a similar crackdown."
Vicente's response? "This is definitely a novel argument they're bringing forth -- but I think why this is perhaps not a winning argument is because different federal agencies and different federal offices have different priorities and can enforce them as they see fit. Colorado has had a medical marijuana law for eleven years at this point, and the federal government hasn't taken action to arrest every sick patient they can -- nor have they done that in California. But to say they're doing one thing in one place and ramping up enforcement in another doesn't necessarily indicate a 14th Amendment violation.
"I think the attorneys in California are throwing whatever arguments they can on the table in the hope that the federal government will back off," he says. "But I don't necessarily think this is one of the stronger ones."
He sees more promise in the claim that the raids represent an unfair change in policy in the wake of a 2009 memo by Deputy Attorney General David Ogden, which encouraged U.S. Attorneys not to use scarce law enforcement resources to go after MMJ operations following state law.
"I think that's a more interesting and perhaps more viable argument," he maintains. "You have a situation where the government has essentially given a green light to certain activities, whether it's providing medical marijuana or being a medical marijuana patient, and then they kind of flip their enforcement priorities and go back on that policy. I think there's a degree of detrimental reliance, where people invest their time and savings into getting these shops off the ground because the government lets them know it's okay but then suddenly backs out."