Volume 35, Issue 1
COUNTY'S NEWS MONTHLY - FREE PRESS
| New Medical Marijuana Policy Issued By Feds|
By Devlin Barrett, Associated Press Writer
(AP) _ The Obama administration will not seek to arrest medical
marijuana users and suppliers as long as they conform to state laws,
under new policy guidelines to be sent to federal prosecutors Monday.
Two Justice Department officials described the new policy to The
Associated Press, saying prosecutors will be told it is not a good use
of their time to arrest people who use or provide medical marijuana in
strict compliance with state laws.
The new policy
is a significant departure from the Bush administration, which insisted
it would continue to enforce federal anti-pot laws regardless of state
Fourteen states allow some use of
marijuana for medical purposes: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii,
Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode
Island, Vermont and Washington.
unique among those for the presence of dispensaries - businesses that
sell marijuana and even advertise their services.
Attorney General Eric Holder said in March that he wanted federal law
enforcement officials to pursue those who violate both federal and
state law, but it has not been clear how that goal would be put into
A 3-page memo spelling out the policy
is expected to be sent Monday to federal prosecutors in the 14 states,
and also to top officials at the FBI and the Drug Enforcement
The memo, the officials said,
emphasizes that prosecutors have wide discretion in choosing which
cases to pursue, and says it is not a good use of federal manpower to
prosecute those who are without a doubt in compliance with state law.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not
authorized to discuss the legal guidance before it is issued.
At the same time, the officials said, the government will still
prosecute those who use medical marijuana as a cover for other illegal
activity. The memo particularly warns that some suspects may hide
old-fashioned drug dealing or other crimes behind a medical marijuana
In particular, the memo urges
prosecutors to pursue marijuana cases which involve violence, the
illegal use of firearms, selling pot to minors, money laundering or
And while the policy memo describes
a change in priorities away from prosecuting medical marijuana cases,
it does not rule out the possibility that the federal government could
still prosecute someone whose activities are allowed under state law.
The memo, officials said, is designed to give a sense of prosecutorial
priorities to U.S. Attorneys in the states that allow medical
marijuana. It notes that pot sales in the United States are the largest
source of money for violent Mexican drug cartels, but adds that federal
law enforcement agencies have limited resources.
Medical marijuana advocates have been anxious to see exactly how the
administration would implement candidate Barack Obama's repeated
promises to change the policy in situations in which state laws allow
the use of medical marijuana.
Shortly after Obama
took office, DEA agents raided four dispensaries in Los Angeles,
prompting confusion about the government's plans.
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