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Montgomery Blair Sibley v. Barack Obama

February 2, 2012

MONTGOMERY BLAIR SIBLEY, PLAINTIFF,
v.
BARACK OBAMA, ET AL., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: John D. Bates United States District Judge

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiff is a prospective participant in the District of Columbia's nascent medical marijuana program. Plaintiff asserts a claim against defendants Vincent Gray, the Mayor of the District of Columbia, and the District's Department of Health (collectively, "the District" or "the District defendants"). The Court has previously denied plaintiff's motions for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction restraining the District from requiring applicants to the medical marijuana program to sign an acknowledgment and attestation of federal laws governing marijuana. Plaintiff also asserted claims against defendants President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr. (collectively, the "federal defendants") regarding President Obama's campaign statements addressing the treatment of medical marijuana by his administration and the Department of Justice's criminal prosecution of medical marijuana distributors. The Court previously dismissed these claims for lack of standing.

Now before the Court are motions filed by both plaintiff and the District defendants. The District has filed a motion to dismiss the remaining claim, Count VII of plaintiff's amended complaint. Plaintiff has filed two motions for reconsideration and/or clarification of the Memorandum Opinion and Order filed October 21, 2011 [Docket Entry 47]. For the reasons described below, the Court will grant the District defendant's motion to dismiss. The Court will also deny plaintiff's motions for reconsideration.

I. Background

The District of Columbia is in the process of starting a medical marijuana program. See

D.C.Code § 7--1671.01, et seq. (2011); Emergency and Fourth Proposed Rulemaking to Implement the Legalization of Marijuana for Medical Treatment Initiative of 1999, Rule 22--C100, D.C. Reg. Vol. 58, No. 32 (Aug. 12, 2011). Plaintiff has "publicly expressed his intent . . . to become a licensed medical marijuana cultivator" and to operate a dispensary under that program. First Am. Compl. at 3. In order to become licensed to do so, District regulations require the plaintiff "to execute an affidavit" recognizing that "[g]rowing, distributing, and possessing marijuana in any capacity . . . is a violation of federal laws" and that the "law authorizing the District's medical marijuana program will not excuse any registrant from any violation of the federal laws governing marijuana." First Am. Compl., Ex. E.

II. Motion to Dismiss

The District defendants have filed a motion to dismiss, arguing, among other things, that the plaintiff's claim against them is now moot. The Court will grant this motion, as the claim against the District has been rendered moot by the plaintiff's subsequent actions.

Before reaching the merits of a plaintiff's claim, this Court must first establish that it has jurisdiction over the matter. Article III of the Constitution requires that the court review only "cases and controversies." See DeFunis v. Odengaard, 416 U.S. 312, 316 (1974); North Carolina v. Rice, 404 U.S. 244, 246 (1971). When a decision on a matter is merely advisory, and if a decision "cannot affect the rights of litigants in the case before [the court]," a case is moot and cannot be heard. Rice, 404 U.S. at 246.

Here, plaintiff has brought suit against defendants involved in administering the District's medical marijuana program. He seeks declaratory relief on the grounds that by complying with the District's rules and signing the affidavit in question, he would "expose [himself] to a real and appreciable risk of self-incrimination." First Am. Compl. at 18. However, after his motions for a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction were denied, plaintiff signed the affidavit in question and applied to the program. See Defs.'s Supplement to their Submission in Opp'n to Pl.'s Second Mot. for a Prelim. Inj., Ex. 1 [Docket Entry 41]. According to the federal defendants, plaintiff was also recently denied the license. SeeNotice to the Court [Docket Entry 52] at 2. A ruling on whether the affidavit causes plaintiff to incriminate himself would have no effect at this point, as he has already signed the affidavit. No action he might yet take would be affected by a ruling of this Court on this issue.

It might be suggested that this case presents a situation that is "capable of repetition, yet evading review," and as such can be heard despite the lack of a current controversy. See S. Pac. Terminal Co. v. ICC, 219 U.S. 498, 515 (1911); Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113, 125 (1973). While plaintiff may choose to apply for distribution and cultivation permits again, thus making these circumstances "capable of repetition," there is no reason to believe that they would evade review in a future dispute. If plaintiff is presented with a similar affidavit in the future, he may challenge it at that juncture.

Because any decision of this court would not change the outcome of a case or controversy, plaintiff's claim against the District defendants is moot. Therefore, the Court will grant the District's motion to dismiss.

III. Motions for Reconsideration

Plaintiff has filed two motions for reconsideration and/or clarification of the Court's October 21, 2011 Order [Docket Entry 46] and accompanying Memorandum Opinion [Docket Entry 47] granting the federal defendants' motion to dismiss and denying plaintiff's ...


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