Congress has prohibited the Justice Department from interfering with laws in California and other states that allow the medical use of marijuana. A day after President Obama signed the new law last week as part of a government spending bill, U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer of San Francisco asked a federal prosecutor whether the change would affect the sentencing of a Mendocino County pot grower, who pleaded guilty to charges requiring at least five years in prison. When the grower was charged with illegal cultivation in 2012, the judge noted, federal law barred any evidence of medical use, but the new law might make that information relevant now. In fact, the grower’s lawyer has said some of his client’s plants were for medical patients. A day earlier, another judge in the same courthouse postponed the sentencing of a Humboldt County man who claimed his pot crop was all for medical use, in compliance with state law.
Nebraska and Oklahoma last week asked the U.S. Supreme Court to toss out portions of Colorado’s pot legalization law. The states contend that Colorado’s law — and especially Colorado’s licensing and regulation of marijuana stores — violates the U.S. Constitution’s Supremacy Clause, which says the federal law reigns when state and federal laws are in irreconcilable conflict. By U.S. law, states suing other states must file their cases directly to the U.S. Supreme Court. Because they originate with the Supreme Court, such cases are known as “original proceedings.” Even among original proceedings, the Nebraska-Oklahoma case is unusual. Most original cases involve disputes over borders or water rights. Those cases often take years or decades to resolve. The Supreme Court this month issued an order in an original case that it first decided in 1947. A 2008 report on a water lawsuit involving Kansas, Nebraska and Colorado noted that the case’s litigation history stretched back more than a century.
A judge ordered a smartphone medical pot delivery app to stop operating in Los Angeles Tuesday, after attorneys for the city argued the company was violating the provisions of a voter-approved measure limiting medical marijuana dispensaries. An attorney for Nestdrop said it would appeal the injunction, saying its operation simply connected legitimate patients with legitimate medical marijuana dispensaries. The decision marked a victory for City Attorney Mike Feuer, who said Nestdrop was circumventing the provisions of Proposition D, which limits the number of medical pot dispensaries in the city and regulates their operation. Nestdrop co-founder Michael Pycher contends his service does operate legally. The company released a YouTube video on Friday, asking supporters of the service to share their stories about how medical marijuana delivery has helped them. “The patients who need medical cannabis the most are the ones who might not be able to drive and therefore need it brought to them, and we can help with that,” Pycher said.
Illinois officials have posted emergency rules spelling out how the state’s medical marijuana program will be extended to children under a law taking effect Jan. 1. The Department of Public Health posted the regulations online Tuesday. Children with certain health conditions, including seizures from epilepsy, will be able to use non-smokable forms of marijuana. But they will need two doctors to sign forms certifying they think the patient will benefit. The rules expand a medical marijuana advisory board to include a parent or caregiver of a patient under age 18 and a medical professional with experience in pediatrics. The emergency rules are in effect for 150 days. A draft of permanent rules will be published later, which will trigger a 45-day public comment period.
Colorado’s cannabis shops are reaping more than half a million dollars in rebated sales-tax revenue in 2014 thanks to timely payment to the tax man. The refunded money from the state’s so-called vendor fee, a 79-year-old agreement the state made with its businesses, suggests the state’s marijuana businesses are achieving an important goal, that of becoming more establishment, despite the extra hurdles they face in the marketplace. The majority of states with a statewide sales tax have an equivalent to Colorado’s vendor fee, which rewards all businesses (not just pot shops) for the prompt payment of taxes by letting them keep a percentage of them each month. Colorado’s vendor fee, which allows businesses to keep 3.3 percent of the 2.9 percent state sales tax, dates to 1935.