SAN FRANCISCO – A judge on Wednesday ordered the federal government not to raid or prosecute a California group that grows and distributes marijuana for its sick members.
The decision from U.S. District Judge Jeremy Fogel in San Jose was the first interpretation of an appeals court's December ruling that federal prosecutions of medical marijuana (search) users are unconstitutional if the pot isn't sold, transported across state lines or used for non-medicinal purposes. Nine states, including California, allow medical marijuana use, but the Justice Department contends that federal drug laws take precedence.
Fogel ruled that the federal government cannot raid or prosecute the 250 members of the Wo/Men's Alliance for Medical Marijuana (search), which sued the government after the Drug Enforcement Administration (search) in 2002 raided its Santa Cruz County growing operation and seized 167 marijuana plants.
The group's director, Valerie Corral, said the group had been receiving and growing marijuana in secret since the raid out of fear of being prosecuted. But with Fogel's decision, the group plans on immediately planting hundreds of plants at Corral's one-acre property.
"You better believe it we're gonna plant," said Corral, who uses marijuana to alleviate epileptic seizures (search).
Justice Department spokesman Charles Miller said the government was reviewing the decision.
The marijuana group asked Fogel to issue the injunction after the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals (search) in December ordered the federal government not to prosecute a sick Oakland woman who smoked marijuana with a doctor's recommendation.
A 1996 California law allows people to grow, smoke or obtain marijuana for medical needs with a doctor's recommendation.
Alaska, Arizona, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Oregon and Washington state have laws similar to California, which has been the focus of federal drug interdiction efforts. The 9th Circuit has jurisdiction over all those states except Colorado and Maine.