The Los Angeles Criminal Law Blog

Recent Marijuana Cases Illustrate Issues With Federal-State Legal Conflict

Have you ever tried that trick where after being shot down by one parent, you go to the other and ask for permission to, for example, go out on a school night? That's a perfect analogy for marijuana laws in this country. California allows medical marijuana use. Other states have legalized recreational use. Meanwhile, the federal government continues to spend resources fighting marijuana production in states where it is completely legal.

Maybe you think marijuana ought to be banned. It is a drug, after all. And we all know what marijuana use leads to: Justin Bieber fans committing acts of self-mutilation. Or perhaps you are on the other side, and see it as a harmless drug, no different from alcohol.

No matter your point of view on the legalization debate, can't we all agree that the conflicting state and federal laws, and FBI raids on local production facilities and stores are an undesirable status quo? Legalize it. Ban it. Just make the law clear.

Aaron Sandusky was just sentenced to 10 years in prison for growing weed. Lots and lots of weed. The 42-year-old Rancho Cucamonga man operated state-legal dispensaries in Upland, Colton, and Moreno Valley, according to the Contra-Costa Times.

Proposition 215 legalized medical marijuana in California in 1996. Senate Bill 420 (get it?) authorized dispensaries and prevents cities from banning them.

Federal law maintains that marijuana is verboten.

Such is the problem with a dual-sovereignty system. When one parent says yes, the other says no. Ideally, this would be resolved by as a states' rights issue since the marijuana is grown, prescribed, and sold in-state.

However, under modern expansions of the commerce clause power, the Supreme Court has held that the federal government can regulate wholly in-state activities that have a substantial economic impact on interstate commerce. Think of it like a butterfly effect. Wholly in-state crops still have an impact on out-of-state growers, consumers, and law enforcement budgets.

So the federal government, under the banner of regulating interstate commerce, is authorized to regulate intrastate commerce.

They aren't just using criminal cases either. In another case from this week, landlords tried to evict a marijuana dispensary after the feds tried to use asset forfeiture to take ownership of the buildings that house the nation's largest pot shops,. They were denied by the judge, who cited the landlords' turning a blind eye before the feds tried to intervene, reports the Los Angeles Times.

(The City of Oakland is fighting on the tenants' behalf, arguing that the closure will prevent patients from getting their medicine and will push the marijuana trade back underground.

To recap: the citizens voted for it. The city and state want it. The feds still fight it. As a result, Sandusky will serve a 10-year sentence for pursuing a state-legal occupation, a state-legal pot shop is fighting landlords and the feds to stay afloat, and taxpayers foot the bill for the family feud.

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