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West v. Holder

United States District Court, D. Columbia.

February 9, 2015

ARTHUR WEST, Plaintiff,
v.
ERIC HOLDER, et al., Defendants

ARTHUR S. WEST, Plaintiff, Pro se, Olympia, WA.

For ERIC H. HOLDER, JR., UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, JAMES COLE, Defendants: Michelle Renee Bennett, LEAD ATTORNEY, U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE, Washington, DC.

For JAY INSLEE, SHARON FOSTER, STATE LIQUOR CONTROL BOARD CHAIR, Defendants: Jeffrey T. Even, LEAD ATTORNEY, ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE STATE OF WASHINGTON, Olympia, WA.

Page 198

MEMORANDUM OPINION

JOHN D. BATES, United States District Judge.

Plaintiff Arthur West, an Olympia, Washington resident, uses marijuana for medical purposes but objects to the wider use and distribution of " recreational" marijuana authorized by his home state's recently enacted Initiative 502 (" I-502" ). To combat this initiative, West sued several state- and federal-government defendants, arguing (among other things) that the Department of Justice's stance toward Washington's marijuana legislation " [rose] to the level of substantial and expressive harm to the structure of federalism in violation of the 9th and 10th Amendments and the common law Anti-commandeering Doctrine." Am. Compl. [ECF No. 14] at 1. This Court previously granted the state defendants' motion to dismiss. See West v. Holder, __ F.Supp.2d, __ 60 F.Supp.3d 190, 2014 WL 3834713, at *1 (D.D.C. Aug. 5, 2014). And, for the reasons given below, it will now grant the federal defendants' motion.[1]

BACKGROUND

Not much has changed since the Court's last decision in this case. Washington's I-502 measure--which legalized the recreational use, possession, and sale of marijuana by licensed individuals within the state--remains on the books. See Wash. Rev. Code § 69.50.360. This state measure still conflicts with federal marijuana prohibitions. See 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1) (making it unlawful " to manufacture, distribute, or dispense, or possess with intent to manufacture, distribute, or dispense, a controlled substance" ); id. § 812(c), Schedule I(c)(10) (listing " [m]arihuana" as a controlled substance). And the Department

Page 199

of Justice still enforces the federal drug laws in Washington in accordance with a memorandum issued by Deputy Attorney General James Cole. See Mem. from James M. Cole (Aug. 29, 2013), available at http://www.justice.gov/iso/opa/resources/3052013829132756857467.pdf (hereinafter " Cole Memo" ). The CliffsNotes version of the memo: rather than prosecute the full range of federal marijuana violations (e.g., " possession of small amounts of marijuana for personal use on private property" ), " Department attorneys . . . [should] focus their enforcement resources and efforts . . . on persons or organizations whose conduct interferes with" certain federal-government priorities (e.g., " [p]reventing the distribution of marijuana to minors" ). Id. at 1-2.

West's claims have likewise remained unchanged; they are, indeed, still difficult to decipher. He believes that the Cole Memo " approv[ed] State recreational marijuana legalization schemes and subject[ed] [the States] to coercive federal conditions and requirements," and thus violated the United States Constitution in various respects. Am. Compl. at 11-12; see also id. at 17-18 (alleging violations of the Fourth, Fifth, Ninth, Tenth, Eleventh, and Fourteenth Amendments, as well as the Supremacy and Guarantee Clauses). And as West sees things, the Cole Memo was a " major federal action" that significantly affected the quality of Washington's " natural and urban environment," id. at 1, 11; he thus believes the federal government violated the National Environmental Policy Act (" NEPA" ) and the Administrative Procedure Act (" APA" ) when it failed to prepare an environmental impact statement before publishing the memo, see id. at 18-19. To rectify these supposed constitutional and statutory violations, West has asked this Court for declaratory and injunctive relief to, essentially, " void" the Cole Memo and order the Department of Justice " to comply with the requirements of NEPA." Id.

LEGAL STANDARD

The federal defendants have responded to West's complaint, arguing that it ought to be dismissed under either Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 12(b)(1) (for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction) or 12(b)(6) (for failure to state a claim). There are certain standards that apply equally to both rules. For one thing, complaints submitted by plaintiffs proceeding pro se (as West has chosen to do) are reviewed under " less stringent standards than formal pleadings drafted by lawyers." Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519, 520, 92 S.Ct. 594, 30 L.Ed.2d 652 (1972). For another, " in passing on a motion to dismiss, whether on the ground of lack of jurisdiction over the subject matter or for failure to state a cause of action, the allegations of the complaint should be construed favorably to the pleader." Scheuer v. Rhodes, 416 U.S. 232, 236, 94 S.Ct. 1683, 40 L.Ed.2d 90 (1974). The factual allegations in the complaint must therefore be presumed to be true, and West must be given every favorable inference that can be drawn from those facts, see id.--though the Court need not accept as true any " legal conclusion couched as a factual allegation" or make inferences that are unsupported by the facts set out in the complaint, Trudeau v. FTC, 456 F.3d 178, 193, 372 U.S.App.D.C. 335 (D.C. Cir. 2006) (internal quotation marks omitted).

But there are also differences between the rules. The Court has an affirmative obligation to ensure that it is acting within the scope of its jurisdictional authority before reaching the merits of any case, and it must dismiss a case when it discovers that it lacks subject-matter jurisdiction over plaintiff's claims. See Steel Co. v. ...


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