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Medical Marijuana In Washington DC Could Help Other States Fight Off The Feds


gavel marijuanaBy Steve Elliott of Toke of the Town

If one prominent attorney is right about the legal ramifications of the District of Columbia’s marijuana law — specifically, that it was approved by the U.S. Congress — then it could be a game-changer nationwide.

D.C.’s medical marijuana law was the first time that the United States Congress had ever given its explicit assent to any state or local law that permits the medicinal use of marijuana — and, according to a California attorney who specializes in health care compliance, that is enormously significant under the Equal Protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

In 2009, noting that it was “allowing” the voters of Washington, D.C., to vote on and implement that city’s Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment law, Congress approved medicinal cannabis in the federal District of Columbia, over which it has all governmental power.

On December 2, 2011, in anticipation of the opening of medical marijuana dispensaries and cultivation centers, the District’s mayor released final rules for the program. Last month, the D.C. Council compromised on medical marijuana cultivation centers, a compromise agreement that limited the number of centers in each ward to six. The District of Columbia’s medical marijuana program is now being implemented.

“States with medical marijuana programs should now be free from federal interference since Congress has allowed local control,” attorney Matthew Pappas at Pappas Law Group, based in Long Beach, California, told Toke of the Town Monday afternoon. “Congress being the legislative branch of the federal sovereign and the only body that can change these laws has now done so by recognizing the voting rights of Washington, D.C., citizens.”

Likewise, Californians and citizens of the 15 other states which have legalized medicinal cannabis are equally protected and have the same voting rights in respect to medical marijuana, according to Pappas Law Group.

?”Congress has turned over the area of medical marijuana to state and local governments,” said Pappas, speaking for the disabled plaintiffs in the California case Marla James v. the Cities of Costa Mesa and Lake Forest. “Through Congress’s duty to equally protect everyone under the law, all patients in states with medical marijuana laws operating in full compliance with those laws should not, from now forward, be subject to previous long standing federal marijuana prohibitions.”

“They’re not going to be subject to the CSA [Controlled Substances Act,” Pappas confirmed to Toke of the Town in a telephone conversation. “In our country, when one group of voters has been given the right to vote on something, other voters, likewise, have the right to do so — in this case, approve medical marijuana.”

“In states where voters have not voted on it, for instance Nebraska, of course it’s not going to be legal there,” Pappas told us. “But patients and medical marijuana centers operating in full compliance with state laws — through equal protection — are not going to be subject to federal prohibition.”

“Our traction in the courts is very strong on this issue,” Pappas told us. “I’m very positive that at some point we’re going to have a decision from the courts.”

Pappas, who earned his J.D. from Western State University and was admitted to practice law in the State of California in 1994, is a member of the federal bars for the Ninth Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals, the Central District of California, the Northern District of California, and the Southern District of California.

Focused in the area of health care regulatory compliance, he developed compliance systems for large health care providers including University Medical Center Southern Nevada, UNR Medical School, Pharmerica, Children’s Hospital of Ohio, Banner Health System, and Molina Healthcare.

For more information, contact Sergio Sandoval, director of public relations at Pappas Law Group.

Article From Toke of the Town and republished with special permission.


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  1. Frank Dallafior on

    I for one have very mixed feelings on the subject. For many years i have known the laws are rediculous. The hearings alone that were allowed to be sole judgement of the’true’ effects of marijuana could not possibly meet the standards today. One effect on black men is their uncontrollable urge to rape white women…this alone made it illegal…..What A Joke!!!! How many years did I have to spend locked up do to this insane law??!!!Way too many!!! I did my time, And all of a sudden its OK now??? That I have a problem with.

  2. Citrine Denton on

    Thanks, Malcolm for a well thought out plea to Legalize, Regulate and Tax. The trend to legalize that is slowly gaining strength will soon reach a block as the pharmaceutical companies take over the marketing and distribution of modified cannabis. Our government will bend to the big money once again. Anyone that fears cannabis, has never smoked it and anyone who believes legalization will encourage our children to smoke should never hold an alcoholic beverage in their hands. I am a grandmother who rarely ever drinks or smokes, but given the choice, I would rather my loved ones partake in cannabis than the socially revered alcohol. That being said, alcohol is legal, regulated and taxed and it is time to end the prohibition on cannabis. Speak up now!

  3. The whole world watches while we pepper-spray, taser and cudgel our own citizens for exercising their birth-right to assemble peacefully; The whole world watches while we strip-search and anally probe our own wheelchair-bound great grandmothers on suspicion of being terrorists; The whole world watches while heavily armed & masked government thugs break into our homes to ridicule, bully, threaten and murder us for using or growing a medically efficacious weed.

    The prohibitionist model is one of blind ignorance, abject failure and economic collapse. Its underlying ideology is one of fear, envy, greed and hate.
    Never have so many been endangered and impoverished by so few, so quickly!

    * Do you wish to greatly reduce, even almost eliminate the market in illegal narcotics? Then please help us to dismantle Prohibition enabling us to Legalize, Regulate and Tax!

    * Do you wish to bring about an enormous reduction in the presence and influence of organized crime? Then please help us to dismantle Prohibition enabling us to Legalize, Regulate and Tax!

    * Do you wish to reduce harm to the existing users and addicts – who may be your children, brothers, sisters, parents or neighbors – by allowing them safe and controlled legal access, which will greatly minimize the possibility of ‘peer-initiation’ and sales to minors? Then please help us to dismantle Prohibition enabling us to Legalize, Regulate and Tax!

    * Do you wish to see a reduction in the number of users or addicts, thus greatly curtailing drug related illness and deaths, while also reducing societal harm from problematic abusers? Then please help us to dismantle Prohibition enabling us to Legalize, Regulate and Tax!

    Three simple questions for the unconscionable employees of the DEA, CIA & DOD: How much is that fence going to cost? How much is it actually going to stop? Won any good wars lately?

  4. I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news but this is inaccurate analysis. Worse, it could draw the ire of the federal government that is already cracking skulls. The DC program has not been implemented yet, and if we start making false claims that it is broader in scope than intended, it may never get going. In that event we all lose out. If IF the DC program gets off the ground, this argument will hold more water. So we may be wise to not raise our voices in celebration until there is something to celebrate.

    The DC Home Rule Act requires that each DC voter initiative, including the DC medical marijuana law, survive a 30 day review period in congress before the city council may implement it. Where congress fails to take action during that 30 day period, the law is not vetoed, which is not the same thing as expressly approved. In this case, Congress didn’t do anything during that 30 day period, primarily because Rep. Issa and others did not have the political capital during that period to get it done. They needed 2/3rds and the President’s signature to veto it, if I recall correctly. In any case, the law was not taken up by Congress during the the 30 review period.

    It would be great if this inaction amounted to tacit approval. In my mind, it does. The inaction by Congress, however, does not carry the full force and effect of the law, unfortunately. Research reveals several decisions where a DC voter initiative was passed, and then later challenged as inconsistent with federal law. Those challenges succeeded, although I will note that the “tacit approval” argument was not raised in these cases. Presumably, it’s a non-starter.

    Medical marijuana can succeed in the courts but this is probably not the way. The challenge that needs to be made will prime soon when more states come online. At that time the 5th amendment due process challenge advanced in Raich III should be well taken.

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