James Cole, Deputy US Attorney general, sent a memorandum aimed at clarifying federal policy regarding medical marijuana. Citing marijuana as a "dangerous drug", his memo made clear the possibility of enforcement action against anybody in the business of growing, selling or distributing marijuana, as well as individuals who knowingly make those activities possible - the message was clear that state and local officials would not be excluded from such enforcement action.
"State laws or local ordinances are not a defense to civil or criminal enforcement of federal law."
Advocates for medical marijuana expressed dismay, citing President Obama's previous pledge not to use Justice Department resources to attempt to get around state laws. They also cite Deputy Attorney General David Ogden's memo issued in October 2009.
Ogden's memo claimed that federal resources should not be used for "individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana."
Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access, the nation's largest medical marijuana advocacy group, said:
"It is disingenuous of the Obama Administration to say it is not attacking patients while obstructing the implementation of local and state medical marijuana laws. The president is using intimidation tactics to stop elected officials from serving their constituents, thereby pushing patients into the illicit market."
Cole says his memo is consistent with Ogden's.
Sherer asked, referring to Cole's claim that his memo is consistent with Ogden's:
"How are federal threats against local and state officials who are adopting public health measures warranted at any time, let alone at a time of fiscal constraint?"
According to Cole's memo, advocates say, state government's attempts to design laws under which medical marijuana could be in clear and unambiguous compliance are rejected.
Public officials in ten states over the last few weeks have received letters threatening criminal prosecution against them if they carry through state laws that regulate the production and distribution of medical marijuana.
Advocates see Cole's memo as an attempt to reinforce those threats.
"At the same time the federal government is recognizing the rights of people living with cancer and other debilitating diseases to use medical marijuana, it is also denying them the means to obtain it legally.
Until states and localities have the ability to adopt and enforce their own laws regarding the production and distribution of medical cannabis, federal interference will continue to undermine the rights of the very patients the Justice Department purports to recognize."
Source: Americans for Safe Access
Written by Christian Nordqvist