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Federal court rules Montana medical marijuana law does not shield providers from federal prosecution

A federal judge in the US District Court for the District of Montana [official website] on Friday ruled [opinion, PDF] that the state's medical marijuana [JURIST archive] law does not protect providers of the drug from federal prosecution. Judge Donald Molloy [official profile] dismissed a civil lawsuit [AP report] brought by 14 medical marijuana providers who had all been raided by federal authorities in the last year. The plaintiffs argued that the federal raids violated their protection under the state law. Molloy, however, found that providers could be prosecuted under federal law, following the precedent set by the Supreme Court in Gonzales v. Raich [opinion] in 2005. In that case, the Court held that the Supremacy Clause applies to medical marijuana laws. The Montana law [SB 423, text], which was enacted in 2011, allowed for the cultivation and production of the drug as long as a registration card was obtained. Molloy held that the Supremacy Clause allowed federal law to trump the state law.

Federal courts have been cracking down on state medical marijuana laws recently. Earlier this month the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] was granted a motion to dismiss [JURIST report] a lawsuit brought by the Arizona Governor. The Governor believed an Arizona medical marijuana law placed lawmakers at risk of federal prosecution for implementing the law. In October, medical marijuana advocates filed suit [JURIST report] in a California federal court seeking relief against the federal government for its crackdown on marijuana dispensaries in the state. In June, a judge in Ontario stayed a ruling [JURIST report] finding that the country's marijuana laws were unconstitutional. In January 2010, the California Supreme Court [official website] overturned [JURIST report] a 2003 law limiting the amount of marijuana that may be possessed under the state's Medical Marijuana Program (MMP) [materials].

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