Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

United States v. Russo

United States District Court, E.D. California

October 30, 2019

UNITED STATES, Plaintiff,
v.
JOHN A. RUSSO, Defendant.

          ORDER

          DEBORAH BARNES UNITED STATES MAGISTRATE JUDGE

         On March 30, 2019, the government filed an information charging defendant with possession of a controlled substance in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 844(a). Defendant moves to enjoin the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) from spending funds appropriated to it by Congress to prosecute him. On October 29, 2019, the undersigned heard argument on the motion. Attorney Ashley Bargenquast appeared for defendant. Assistant United States Attorney Chi Soo Kim appeared for the government. After considering the parties' briefs and the arguments of counsel, and good cause appearing, this court will deny defendant's motion for the reasons set out below.

         BACKGROUND

         Defendant is an employee of Indigo Therapeutics, which is licensed by the State of California to manufacture and distribute cannabis products. It is alleged that on December 10, 2018, defendant picked up raw cannabis from a cultivator in Trinity County, California. While transporting the cannabis back to his manufacturing facility in Richmond, California, defendant drove on State Highway 299 through the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. While there, defendant was stopped for a minor traffic violation by a United States Forest Service Officer. When asked whether he had any drugs in his vehicle, defendant responded that he had about 200 pounds of cannabis in the trailer attached to his truck. The officer cited defendant for a violation of 21 U.S.C. § 844(a), misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance.

         On May 30, 2019, the government filed an information charging defendant with one count of a violation of § 844(a). On August 29, defendant filed the present motion. (ECF No. 15.) The government filed an opposition (ECF No. 20) and defendant filed a reply (ECF No. 21). The undersigned heard argument on October 29. (ECF No. 22.)

         MOTION TO ENJOIN

         I. Legal Standards

         Each year since 2014, Congress has included a rider to the federal appropriations law prohibiting the Department of Justice (“DOJ”) from using congressionally appropriated funds to interfere with state medical marijuana laws. The current rider, which is in all relevant respects identical to the 2018 rider, provides:

None of the funds made available under this Act to the Department of Justice may be used, with respect to any of the States of . . . California, . . . to prevent any of them from implementing their own laws that authorize the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.

Consolidated Appropriations Act, H.R. 648, 116th Cong. § 537 (2019) (names of numerous other states omitted) (hereafter “the rider”).

         In August 2016, the Ninth Circuit in United States v. McIntosh, 833 F.3d 1163 (9th Cir. 2016) considered application of the rider. After establishing that it had jurisdiction over the issue and that the defendants had standing to complain about the DOJ's use of funds, the Ninth Circuit examined the text of the rider, which it commented was “not a model of clarity.” 833 F.3d at 1175. The court concluded that the rider “prohibits DOJ from spending funds from relevant appropriations acts for the prosecution of individuals who engaged in conduct permitted by the State Medical Marijuana Laws and who fully complied with such laws.” Id. at 1177. Therefore, the rider does not prohibit DOJ from prosecuting “[i]ndividuals who do not strictly comply with all state-law conditions regarding the use, distribution, possession, and cultivation of medical marijuana.” Id. at 1178. Defendants are entitled to evidentiary hearings to “determine whether their conduct was completely authorized by state law, by which we mean that they strictly complied with all relevant conditions imposed by state law on the use, distribution, possession, and cultivation of medical marijuana.” Id. at 1179.

         Recently, the Ninth Circuit clarified that the defendant bears the burden of proving “it is more likely than not that the state's medical-marijuana laws ‘completely authorized' [his] conduct.” United States v. Evans, 929 F.3d 1073, 1077 (9th Cir. 2019). The court further explained that compliance is required with the state's substantive authorizations, as opposed to its procedural laws. “In other words, we ask whether the defendant has fully complied with the laws that allow the use, distribution, possession, or cultivation of medical marijuana.” Id. at 1077-78.

         II. Level of Compliance with State Law

         The parties disagree about the applicable standard for compliance with state law. The government argues that McIntosh is clear - to take advantage of the rider, a defendant must show he has “strictly complied” with “all state-law conditions regarding the use, distribution, possession, and cultivation of medical marijuana.” McIntosh, 833 F.3d at 1178. “Strict compliance” is the standard cited by the Ninth Circuit when applying McIntosh, including as recently as September 2019 in United States v. Silkeutsabay, 776 Fed.Appx. 538 (9th Cir. 2019) (“To reap [the rider's] protection, Appellants must establish that they strictly complied with Washington law in operating their medical ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.