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NORML Files Medical Cannabis Appeal in Ninth Circuit

By Robyn Hagan Cain | Last updated on

Things get kind of nutty when state law and federal law don't quite match. Couples in the states that recognize same-sex marriage and civil unions deal with the discord between their state marital rights and the federal lack thereof. Medical marijuana patients similarly face obstacles posed by the gap between state acceptance of medical marijuana and federal classification of marijuana as a Schedule I drug.

Much as same-sex couples' DOMA challenges are gaining traction in federal courts, medical marijuana challenges are also becoming more common.

And both of these hot-button issues are currently pending before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

This week, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) filed its opening brief in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, asking the appellate court to reinstate its case challenging increased efforts from the Obama administration and the California's U.S. Attorneys to crack down on the production and distribution of medical cannabis.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, DEA Administrator Michelle Leonhart, and the individual U.S. Attorneys in Sacramento, San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego are named as defendants in NORML's suit.

According to the NORML brief, federal marijuana law enforcement should be enjoined under the Fifth, Ninth, and Tenth Amendments. NORML maintains:

  • There's a Ninth Amendment and substantive due process right to distribute, possess, and use medical cannabis.
  • Banning medical cannabis for the alleviation of suffering and treatment of disease violated the Equal Protection Clause.
  • The federal government is judicially estopped from enforcing the medical marijuana prohibition based on earlier litigation in the Northern District of California.

U.S. District Judge Garland Burrell of Sacramento tossed the case in March, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

The Ninth Circuit challenge isn't the only pending federal appeal regarding marijuana policy. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals is currently considering a case arguing that marijuana should no longer be classified as a Schedule I due to widely-documented medical uses for the drug.

Polls show that popular support for marijuana legalization is growing, but does that mean that litigants can win a medical marijuana appeal before a federal appellate court?

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