A Clarence Thomas Hat Tip Wasn't Enough for Standing Akimbo – Westword


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The marijuana industry got a small morale boost in June when Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas labeled the federal government’s enforcement of the plant inconsistent and said that national prohibition “may no longer be necessary or proper.” But for Denver medical marijuana dispensary Standing Akimbo, the moral victory wasn’t enough.

Thomas’s opinion came in a statement released in conjunction with the court’s rejection of a case brought by Standing Akimbo against the IRS in 2017. The dispensary had argued against the agency’s tax-collection practices regarding state-legal marijuana businesses, taking issue with the IRS’s application of tax code 280E. That section defines marijuana businesses as illegal drug traffickers and prohibits them from applying for the vast majority of federal tax deductions.

Thomas called Standing Akimbo’s case a “prime example” of the inconsistencies between federal and state marijuana enforcement, but declined to officially oppose the court’s rejection of the case. Despite not getting a full hearing before SCOTUS, Standing Akimbo attorney James Thorburn believes Thomas gave his clients a road map for getting their case back in front of the Supremes — if they bring up the right questions.

We caught up with Thorburn right after he filed a petition for a re-hearing with the court to learn more.

Westword: After the case was denied and you read Justice Thomas’s statement, what went through your mind?

James Thorburn: At first it was disappointing, but the more we read Justice Thomas’s statement, the more excited we became. It became clear to us there was a real shift happening. There’s a difference between a statement and a

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