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Court: Feds can target California pot clinics

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) -- An appeals court Wednesday affirmed the federal government's long-standing policy that California medical marijuana dispensaries have no protection under state law from drug prosecutions.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday that three California dispensaries, their customers and their landlords are barred from using a state law allowing marijuana use with a doctor's recommendation as a shield from criminal charges and government lawsuits. All uses of marijuana are illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act, also known as the CSA, even in states that have legalized pot.

The ruling upholds three lower court decisions and follows previous rulings by federal appeals courts and the U.S. Supreme Court.

The 9th Circuit panel conceded that medical marijuana use is more accepted now than several years ago when it made a similar ruling. But it said the new legal challenges didn't raise any new arguments that would trump federal law.

The unanimous three-judge panel concluded that shielding the dispensaries from prosecution “would compromise a governmental interest in enforcing the law.”

David Michael, a lawyer for the three dispensaries that filed the lawsuit seeking protection from prosecution, didn't return a phone call.

“Our responsibility as U.S. Attorneys is to enforce the Controlled Substances Act,” said Benjamin Wagner, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of California. “Today's decision rejecting the dispensary's lawsuit is a straightforward application of existing precedent, which merely confirms that the CSA continues to be in full force and effect, regardless of state law.”

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