December 3, 2009 – Marijuana is California’s largest agricultural commodity with $14 billion in sales yearly, distancing itself from the state’s second largest—milk and cream—which bring in $7.3 billion a year. But California’s coffers only receive a fraction of the marijuana sales, $200 million coming from the sale of medical marijuana. That could all change with Assemblyman Tom Ammiano’s (D-San Francisco) Marijuana Control, Regulation and Education Act (AB 390).

Since February, when the bill was introduced, it has made little headway in the Legislature. But in October, a hearing on the bill was held by the Public Safety Committee; marking the first time a legislative committee held a hearing on marijuana legalization.

AB 390 would create a system that would regulate marijuana much like alcohol is regulated. Those over the age of 21 could purchase pot from vendors with licenses to do so. The state’s Legislative Analyst and the Board of Equalization have estimated that pot sales could bring up to $1.3 billion in revenue yearly. That number is based off a proposed $50-per-oz. levy placed on marijuana purchases and sales tax.

With a projected deficit of $20 billion facing the state next fiscal year, sources of guaranteed revenue are needed. But there are those that believe that the social issues legalizing pot could have far outweigh any economic benefits.

“Why add another addictive element to our society? I don’t think we should criminalize marijuana, but I don’t think having marijuana where you can buy it like cigarettes or alcohol is something we ought to be doing as a society. I believe we are moving in the wrong direction on that,” said Steve Francis, a former San Diego mayoral candidate and founder of the site KeepComingBack.com—a site that focuses on news and research of alcohol and drug addiction.

Francis says that legalizing marijuana would ultimately cost the state money. He cited a report issued by the Marin Institute that found the economic cost of alcohol use is $38 billion annually, with the state covering $8.3 billion for health-care treatment of alcohol-caused illnesses, plus crime costs, traffic incidents and reduced worker productivity. The taxes and fees collected from alcohol sales only cover 22 percent of total government costs. He says there is every reason to believe the same would happen with marijuana.

“Whatever taxes the author of the legislation thinks we are going to collect on the taxation of marijuana will be very little compared to the social costs on California,” he said.

But the economic impact legalizing marijuana could have goes beyond taxation. Nearly a fifth of California’s 170,000 inmates are locked up because of drug-related crimes. Although most are convicted on crimes more severe than possession, legalizing marijuana would save the state $1 billion in law enforcement and corrections costs.

Orange County Superior Court Judge James Gray says the best solution is to repeal the prohibition of marijuana, allowing the substance to become regulated and less available to children.

“We couldn’t make this drug any more available if we tried,” he said in TIME. “Unfortunately, every society in the history of mankind has had some form of mind-altering, sometimes addictive substance to use, misuse, abuse or get addicted to. Get used to it. They’re here to stay. So let’s try to reduce those harms, and right now we couldn’t do worse if we tried.”

Even if California were to legalize marijuana, there are those that believe that the gray area between federal and state law would only widen. Since California’s Compassionate Use Act was passed in 1996, medicinal marijuana has become more accessible to those need it. But it has opened the gates of confusion, as federal laws still consider marijuana illegal. In fact, cannabis is described as a Schedule 1 drug by the federal Controlled Substances Act, meaning it has no medical use and cannot be prescribed by a physician. Many California municipalities have been reluctant to allow medical marijuana dispensaries, even though they were legalized 13 years ago.

There has been some indication that the federal government is starting to ease its control of marijuana. A few days after Ammiano introduced AB 390, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced that states should be allowed to determine their own rules for medical marijuana and that federal raids on dispensaries would stop in California. President Obama’s nomination of Gil Kerlikowske to be the so-called drug czar and head of the Office of National Drug Control Policy indicated that a softer federal stance on marijuana is being taken. Kerlikowske is the former police chief in Seattle, where he made it clear that going after marijuana possession was not a priority for his department.

A vote by the Public Safety Committee on AB 390 is expected in January. Ammiano said the bill could take between a year and two years before it is heard or voted on in the Legislature. Until then, the debate over decriminalizing marijuana will continue amidst one of California’s worst economic times. BY Landon Bright Source.

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October 21, 2009 – Since Monday when the Department of Justice announced its new ‘hands-off’ policy on Picture 52persecuting Medical Marijuana dispensaries operating in compliance with state laws, there has been an avalanche of media coverage – over 2000 major media articles. Here is a sampling of the range and scope of coverage and opinions:

Medical Marijuana: ‘Be Careful,’ Ex-White House Drug Spokesman Bob Weiner Tells DOJ About ‘New Lax Enforcement’ Policy; ‘Use May Explode for Healthy People’
Source: PRnewswire
Excerpt: “You may get way more than you bargained for”, Weiner cautions of the new policy barring states attorneys from busting and prosecuting users and caregivers of so-called “medical” marijuana who act “in accordance with state law.” “Prescription marijuana use may explode for healthy people.” Unfortunately, as many as 90% of purchases at clinical distribution centers are “false defenses”, some law enforcement agents report – “which means individuals are not really sick but simply want the pot,” Weiner asserts.

U.S medicinal smokers exhale sigh of relief
Source: Now Toronto
Excerpt: Obama administration finally makes good on promises to call of the dogs on medicinal pot shops

Medical marijuana: An excuse to get high
Source: Baltimore Sun
Excerpt: The medical marijuana issue has little to do with helping people and more to do with making the drug legal for all those who want to get high and not get into trouble. If we are truly concerned about using marijuana for medicinal purposes, we would send it to the Food & Drug Administration to be tested and if approved they would decide on the best way to make the drug available.

Medical marijuana policy move sparks cautious optimism
Source: CNN.com
Excerpt: Patients in the 13 states where medical marijuana is legal can now light up without fear of federal reprisal, but they may still have to answer to local authorities. The federal move could encourage other states to make their own laws allowing medical marijuana use. The Justice Department this week announced that it will no longer seek to prosecute people using, prescribing, or distributing pot for medical purposes, as long as they’re in compliance with local law. However, regulations in some medical marijuana states remain murky.

The National Review: A Case Of Token Federalism
Source: NPR
Excerpt: The Obama administration has discovered federalism, at least a version of it, and it has therefore foresworn prosecuting medical-marijuana users and distributors who are acting in accord with state laws. This is good news for medical-marijuana users in the 14 states that allow cannabis to be prescribed for such purposes as mitigating the side effects of chemotherapy.

Good Sense on Medical Marijuana
Source: New York Times
Excerpt: The federal government should not be harassing sick people and their caregivers. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. has made the right decision, calling off prosecutions of patients who use marijuana for medical purposes or those who distribute it to them — provided they comply with state laws. It is a welcome reversal of the Bush administration’s ideologically driven campaign to prosecute dispensaries, even in states that had made medical uses legal and often with overwhelming popular support.

Will Health Coverage Pay for Medical Marijuana?
Source: CBS News
Excerpt: “The main issue here is the question of FDA approval that all drugs need to go through,” said Pisano. Lack of FDA approval means no coverage either by private insurers or through any public plan to be drafted in Congress.
So what, then, are the prospects that medical marijuana will get FDA approval? In the short term, at least, they’re pretty slim. The fact that marijuana remains a controlled substance presents one hurdle to approval; another, perhaps more significant one is that it isn’t a synthesized drug – that is, its component parts are not crafted by drug companies.

Medical marijuana is an insult to our intelligence
Source: Washington Post
The Justice Department says it’s backing off the prosecution of people who smoke pot or sell it in compliance with state laws that permit “medical marijuana.” Attorney General Eric Holder says “it will not be a priority to use federal resources to prosecute patients with serious illnesses or their caregivers.” Party hardy! I mean — let the healing begin!

A federal misstep with medical marijuana?
Source: Christian Science Monitor
Excerpt: The problem with the Obama administration’s new directive limiting federal prosecution of medical marijuana is that it encourages those who would legalize the drug. The federal government has limited resources to fight drugs, and funds should not be wasted on prosecuting users and providers of medical marijuana who comply with state laws, the Obama administration said this week. While this argument may indeed seem a sensible prioritizing of federal effort and dollars, the White House and the public should realize it comes with a cost.
That cost is Washington’s tacit approval of state-sanctioned medical marijuana, which the drug’s proponents will take as a green light to push even harder for their ultimate goal: full legalization of marijuana use and distribution.

Here is the three-page October 19, 2009 memorandum from the Deputy Attorney General 91664043ledeentitled, “Investigations and Prosecutions in States Authorizing the Medical Use of Marijuana.”

This action is many steps in the right direction.

Most importantly, this is a formal acknowledgment by the Federal government of the reality of medical use of Cannabis on a mass scale. This is in many respects more significant than the 30-year old compassionate use program that was closed to new patients in 1992. Whether this is grudging recognition of the extensive scientific support for using Cannabis medically, simply honoring a campaign pledge, or bowing to public opinion, it is very important politically and symbolically. At a minimum, this memorandum should encourage state legislators to change their minds if they have been reluctant to vote for a state medical marijuana law on the ground that such a state law might conflict with federal law. In addition, this change encourages scientific researchers to redouble their search for potential medical benefits from Cannabis. They can see that their research is likely to be rewarded with application in the patient community. And, the announcement of this memorandum must give hope to those who are now in prison, or who have been sentenced to prison, who were operating or planning bona fide medical marijuana dispensaries, and their loved ones, that their sentences might be commuted.

The memorandum reflects the political and organizational conflict within the Department of Justice. The Department reiterates that “marijuana is a dangerous drug” and that “the illegal distribution and sale of marijuana is a serious crime.”

Unfortunately this memorandum offers less formal protection that any legitimate dispensary operator or care giver wants and really needs.

The memorandum says investigators and prosecutors “should not focus federal resources in your States on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.”

The unfortunate reality is that “clear and unambiguous compliance” is an extraordinarily high standard to achieve in general. When the conduct is entirely prohibited by federal law, the state laws were often deliberately written with ambiguity to avoid “positive conflict” with the Controlled Substances Act (sec. 708 of the Controlled Substances Act, 21 U.S.C. 903). Until DEA reschedules Cannabis and Congress revises federal law, this will be an area of law that is inherently and inescapably filled with ambiguity.

The memorandum suggests seven circumstances that suggest an absence of “clear and unambiguous:”
* unlawful possession or unlawful use of firearms;
* violence;
* sales to minors;
* financial and marketing activities inconsistent with the terms, conditions, or purposes of state law, including evidence of money laundering and/or financial gains or excessive amounts of cash;
* amounts of marijuana inconsistent with purported compliance;
* illegal possession or sale of other controlled substances; or
* ties to other criminal enterprises.

But the memorandum itself is ambiguous. For example, every medical marijuana user, grower or care giver who possesses a firearm — even if owned legally under every other circumstance — arguably is per se an unlawful firearms possessor under federal law which prohibits possession of firearms by a person who is an unlawful user of a controlled substance (18 U.S.C. 922(g)). How does that prohibition square with the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling that possession of firearms is constitutionally protected as an aspect of the right to self defense in last year’s case of District of Columbia v. Heller, 554 U.S. ___ (2008) — especially considering the high value of Cannabis and the risk of armed robbery or burglary of the premises where it is grown, kept or dispensed?

And speaking of “ambiguity,” the Department of Justice is certainly ambiguous when using terms such as “amounts of marijuana inconsistent with purported compliance” or “financial gains or excessive amounts of cash.” That’s clear, isn’t it?

Well, perhaps the retrograde elements in the Department of Justice need to see how this operates and that “the world as we know it” does not collapse, before moving to the next logical step.

But all that aside, this is enormously important progress for the nation. Whole Cannabis has enormous potential as a medicine. This memorandum allows progress in making that potential real across a wide front of society, science and law.

by Eric E. Sterling. Source.

SAN FRANCISCO — Medical marijuana advocates in California said the Obama administration’s announcement of new guidelines for pot prosecutions Monday contained Picture 43some hopeful signs, but lacked the specifics needed to keep patients and their suppliers out of court.

“It’s an extremely welcome rhetorical de-escalation of the federal government’s long-standing war on medical marijuana patients,” said Stephen Gutwillig, state director of the Drug Policy Alliance.

Dale Gieringer, California coordinator of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said the administration’s advice to U.S. attorneys that they respect state law – such as California’s Proposition 215, the 1996 measure legalizing medicinal use of the drug – was encouraging.

However, he added, “the policy has major loopholes that give prosecutors broad discretion to determine what they think is legal.”

A Justice Department memo, sent Monday to federal prosecutors in California and 13 other states whose laws allow medical use of marijuana, provides guidelines to implement the policy Attorney General Eric Holder announced in March: that federal authorities should refrain from arresting or prosecuting people who are complying with their state’s laws.

Federal prosecutors should focus on major drug traffickers and networks, rather than on those who “are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws” on medical marijuana, said Deputy Attorney General David Ogden.

But he added some qualifications: Prosecutors can go after those who sell marijuana for profit, a category that federal authorities have commonly invoked in charging growers and sellers of medicinal pot.

San Francisco’s U.S. attorney, Joseph Russoniello, asserted in August that most of California’s 300 marijuana dispensaries make profits, in violation of state guidelines, and are therefore open to federal prosecution.

Ogden also said the Justice Department would fight any effort by people now charged with marijuana-related crimes in federal court to claim that they were simply following state law. And even those who are clearly complying with a state’s law can be investigated and prosecuted, he said, in the pursuit of “important federal interests.”
‘Lot of discretion’

“It leaves a lot of discretion up to the U.S. attorneys,” said Kris Hermes of Americans for Safe Access, an advocacy group for patients who use marijuana. “We hope that these guidelines rein in rogue prosecutors like Russoniello. There’s no guarantee that’s going to happen.”

Russoniello’s office is prosecuting owners of two Hayward-area medical marijuana dispensaries that were licensed by local governments. In March, after Holder’s announcement, federal agents raided Emmalyn’s California Cannabis Clinic in San Francisco, which had a city permit. No charges were filed.

Russoniello’s office referred inquiries Monday to the Justice Department, where spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said Ogden’s memo was intended to provide “guidance and clarification” to prosecutors and does not change administration policy.

Judges go easy
Since Holder’s announcement, prosecutors have told several federal judges in California that the new policy did not justify leniency for marijuana defendants whose cases originated during President George W. Bush’s administration.

Judges have nonetheless imposed lighter sentences than the Justice Department wanted, notably a one-year term for a Central Coast pot club operator for whom prosecutors sought five years.

Although Monday’s guidelines, like Holder’s earlier statement, do not expressly apply to pending cases, defense lawyers will argue to judges that the Obama administration’s memo justifies a break in sentencing, said Joe Elford, lawyer for Americans for Safe Access.

He also predicted that some prisoners would cite the memo in asking President Obama for clemency.

The guidelines don’t say how federal authorities would respond if California legalized marijuana for personal use, as proposed in an Assembly bill and several pending initiatives. But Gutwillig, whose organization advocates legalization, said he saw a glimmer of hope.

“The Obama administration has taken a further step today to follow the lead of the states on marijuana policy,” he said.

Source.

October 19, 2009 – The Justice Department announced today that federal drug agents will no longer arrest or prosecute people who are legally using, selling or supplying medical marijuana in the states that allow it.

“It will not be a priority to use federal resources to prosecute patients with serious illnesses or their caregivers who are complying with state laws on medical marijuana,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement when he released the new guidelines. But, Mr. Holder said, “we will not tolerate drug traffickers who hide behind claims of compliance with state law to mask activities that are clearly illegal.”

How significant is the change in federal drug policy? What will the new guidelines mean for local and state law enforcement?

A Muddier Federal Role
Picture 29Tom Riley-Tom Riley was associate director of the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy from 2001 to 2009.

The new policy announced on medical marijuana can be broken down into two parts. The first of these is not really “new” and the second is not really “policy.”

First, Attorney General Holder announced that it would no longer be a “priority” for the federalPicture 31 government to prosecute patients with serious illnesses. But that has never been a priority of federal law enforcement, which has been focused on people engaged in the cultivation and trafficking of significant quantities of illegal drugs. Let’s not be conned here: The average quantity of marijuana that someone is in federal prison for marijuana possession is over 100 lbs.

That is not “personal use,” nor is it Granny getting locked in the slammer for puffing a few joints for “medical” purposes. Leaving aside the wisdom of determining medical policy by ballot measure rather than by science, keeping the federal law enforcement focus on drug trafficking is nothing new — it is a continuation of the Bush and Clinton administration policies.

Second, the memo itself is internally conflicted to the point of incoherence. While ostensibly encouraging prosecutors to defer to state and local laws on marijuana, it also recognizes that federal “interest” can still allow the feds, at their discretion, to step in and prosecute. In fact, federal law remains completely unchanged.

The memo specifically states that the new policy should not be interpreted to mean that medical marijuana has been legalized, and that it does not provide a legal defense against federal prosecution. Moreover, it states that even if an individual scrupulously complies with state laws, they still may be subject to federal prosecution.

The gap between the headlines and the reality can only lead to further confusion. California municipalities are struggling with an explosion of store-front pot shops and grow operations. The new federal “guidelines” make the federal role muddier, and may send a green light to cultivators and traffickers who have been cynically using the “medical” label.

A Victory for Common Sense
Picture 30Richard N. Van Wickler-Richard N. Van Wickler is the Cheshire County superintendent of New Hampshire Department of Corrections and a member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

The announcement by the Obama administration to not use limited resources to target states that allow the use of medicinal marijuana, and the citizens who use them, is a significant victory for common sense.

One case in point is California, which has built 21 new penitentiaries in a five-year period. Picture 32
The state should get some relief from the no fewer than 200 raids by federal officers on state-approved medicinal marijuana cooperatives — a significant acknowledgment of compassion for the sick and respect for the autonomy of our individual states. The change shines a new light on the horribly failed drug war.

Citing limited federal resources as a principal reason not to pursue state-approved medicinal marijuana cooperatives is only one of many excellent reasons why our country must change course. Considering that 83 percent of property crimes and as much as 40 percent of violent crimes are unsolved in our country, it seems that what resources we do have could be much better utilized. If preventing crime, reducing disease and addiction rates, and reducing violence and needless death are goals of this administration with respect to the drug war, then an exit strategy is urgently needed on this failed war.

But Is It Effective?
Picture 34Henry I. Miller-Henry I. Miller, a medical doctor, is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution. He was an official at the Food and Drug Administration from 1979 to 1994.

As an “exercise of investigative and prosecutorial discretion,” in the words of the Department of Justice, this decision is understandable — and even welcome — but it is not altogether satisfactory. Arguably, if marijuana has therapeutic potential, it should be required to pass scientific and regulatory muster like any other medicine.

We have considerable experience with making drugs from the opium poppy, for example, butPicture 33 we don’t authorize patients to smoke opium for medical purposes; rather, we require that opiate products, including morphine for analgesia and paregoric for diarrhea, be standardized and quality-controlled by composition and dose, fully tested, delivered in an appropriate manner, and shown to be safe and effective. Why should marijuana be any different?

A promising and rational alternative to smoked marijuana is a marijuana-derived drug called Sativex, formulated as a mouth spray, which has been approved in Canada for the treatment of neuropathic pain associated with multiple sclerosis and is in advanced clinical trials for muscle spasticity, intractable pain and other uses. Unlike crude marijuana, its purity and potency can be standardized.

Patients who are genuinely in need deserve safe and effective medicines, and rigorous testing and oversight are the best ways to provide them.

Hypocritical Foolishness
Picture 36Joseph McNamara-Joseph D. McNamara, a retired deputy inspector of the New York Police Department and former police chief of San Jose, Calif., is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.

I never smoked a cigarette in my life, let alone a reefer. It’s not that I was a puritan. Like the overwhelming majority of my fellow cops, I thought it manly and cool to consume my share of beer and booze.

But as a veteran of more than 30 years in law enforcement, I always thought it hypocritical Picture 35foolishness to bust 700,000 to 800,000 Americans a year for pot, and especially ridiculous to get excited about sick people smoking marijuana because they believed accurately or mistakenly, that it helped ease their pain.

I’m not inclined to enter the endless debates between crusading zealots against marijuana and those who cite contrary evidence that marijuana is a relatively harmless drug. I am convinced, however, that if you must be a heavy drug user, you’re far better off smoking pot than, say, playing the dangerous, insane drinking games common among our high school and college kids, and excessive alcohol consumption by older heavy boozers.

In my mind, the question should focus on the societal costs of arresting someone for using certain substances we disapprove of, and consequently giving them a criminal record that can damage their lives and turn them into career criminals. If Misters Clinton, Bush, or Obama, and countless other successful people had been busted for their youthful flirtation with drugs most would have been stigmatized and suffered irreparable career harm. The learning moment here is that there is a terrible human cost to arresting someone, which must be balanced against the harm it supposedly prevents.

Additional costs of the violence, corruption, and other crimes associated with prohibition never seem to be included in estimated costs of drug war policies. For example, the use of scarce police, court, and correctional resources, and the disproportional mischief that aggressive arrest tactics impose on minorities tilt the already out of balance price tag for our irrational policy of unnecessarily criminalizing widespread conduct. Why is a free society so terrified of trusting adults to make responsible decisions?

Source.

WASHINGTON, Oct. 19 – Attorney General Eric Holder today announced formal guidelines for federal prosecutors in states that have enacted laws Obamaauthorizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes. The guidelines make clear that the focus of federal resources should not be on individuals whose actions are in compliance with existing state laws, while underscoring that the Department will continue to prosecute people whose claims of compliance with state and local law conceal operations inconsistent
with the terms, conditions, or purposes of those laws.

“It will not be a priority to use federal resources to prosecute patients with serious illnesses or their caregivers who are complying with state laws on medical marijuana, but we will not tolerate drug traffickers who hide behind claims of compliance with state law to mask activities that are clearly illegal,” Holder said. “This balanced policy formalizes a sensible approach that the Department has been following since January: effectively focus our
resources on serious drug traffickers while taking into account state and local laws.”

The guidelines set forth examples of conduct that would show when individuals are not in clear and unambiguous compliance with applicable state law and may indicate illegal drug trafficking activity of potential federal interest, including unlawful use of firearms, violence, sales to minors, money laundering, amounts of marijuana inconsistent with purported compliance with state or local law, marketing or excessive financial gains similarly inconsistent with state or local law, illegal possession or sale of other controlled substances, and ties to criminal enterprises.

Fourteen states have enacted laws in some form addressing the use of marijuana for medical purposes. A copy of the guidelines, in a memo from Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden to United States Attorneys, can be found here:

SOURCE U.S. Department of Justice

Today Attorney General Eric Holder announced formal guidelines for federal prosecutors in Picture 44states that have enacted laws authorizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Those guidelines are contained in a memo from Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden which was sent to United States Attorneys this morning.

October 19,2009

MEMORANDUM FOR SELECTED UNITED STATES ATTORNEYS

FROM: David W. Ogden, Deputy Attorney General

SUBJECT: Investigations and Prosecutions in States Authorizing the Medical Use of Marijuana

This memorandum provides clarification and guidance to federal prosecutors in States that have enacted laws authorizing the medical use of marijuana. These laws vary in their substantive provisions and in the extent of state regulatory oversight, both among the enacting States and among local jurisdictions within those States. Rather than developing different guidelines for every possible variant of state and local law, this memorandum provides uniform guidance to focus federal investigations and prosecutions in these States on core federal enforcement priorities.

The Department of Justice is committed to the enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act in all States. Congress has determined that marijuana is a dangerous drug, and the illegal distribution and sale of marijuana is a serious crime and provides a significant source of revenue to large-scale criminal enterprises, gangs, and cartels. One timely example underscores the importance of our efforts to prosecute significant marijuana traffickers: marijuana distribution in the United States remains the single largest source of revenue for the Mexican cartels.

The Department is also committed to making efficient and rational use of its limited investigative and prosecutorial resources. In general, United States Attorneys are vested with “plenary authority with regard to federal criminal matters” within their districts. USAM 9-2.001. In exercising this authority, United States Attorneys are “invested by statute and delegation from the Attorney General with the broadest discretion in the exercise of such authority.” Id. This authority should, of course, be exercised consistent with Department priorities and guidance.

The prosecution of significant traffickers of illegal drugs, including marijuana, and the disruption of illegal drug manufacturing and trafficking networks continues to be a core priority in the Department’s efforts against narcotics and dangerous drugs, and the Department’s investigative and prosecutorial resources should be directed towards these objectives. As a general matter, pursuit of these priorities should not focus federal resources in your States on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana. For example, prosecution of individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses who use marijuana as part of a recommended treatment regimen consistent with applicable state law, or those caregivers in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state law who provide such individuals with marijuana, is unlikely to be an efficient use of limited federal resources. On the other hand, prosecution of commercial enterprises that unlawfully market and sell marijuana for profit continues to be an enforcement priority of the Department. To be sure, claims of compliance with state or local law may mask operations inconsistent with the terms, conditions, or purposes of those laws, and federal law enforcement should not be deterred by such assertions when otherwise pursuing the Department’s core enforcement priorities.

Typically, when any of the following characteristics is present, the conduct will not be in clear and unambiguous compliance with applicable state law and may indicate illegal drug trafficking activity of potential federal interest:

*
unlawful possession or unlawful use of firearms;
*
violence;
*
sales to minors;
*
financial and marketing activities inconsistent with the terms, conditions, or purposes of state law, including evidence of money laundering activity and/or financial gains or excessive amounts of cash inconsistent with purported compliance with state or local law;
*
amounts of marijuana inconsistent with purported compliance with state or local law;
*
illegal possession or sale of other controlled substances; or
*
ties to other criminal enterprises.

Of course, no State can authorize violations of federal law, and the list of factors above is not intended to describe exhaustively when a federal prosecution may be warranted. Accordingly, in prosecutions under the Controlled Substances Act, federal prosecutors are not expected to charge, prove, or otherwise establish any state law violations. Indeed, this memorandum does not alter in any way the Department’s authority to enforce federal law, including laws prohibiting the manufacture, production, distribution, possession, or use of marijuana on federal property. This guidance regarding resource allocation does not “legalize” marijuana or provide a legal defense to a violation of federal law, nor is it intended to create any privileges, benefits, or rights, substantive or procedural, enforceable by any individual, party or witness in any administrative, civil, or criminal matter. Nor does clear and unambiguous compliance with state law or the absence of one or all of the above factors create a legal defense to a violation of the Controlled Substances Act. Rather, this memorandum is intended solely as a guide to the exercise of investigative and prosecutorial discretion.

Finally, nothing herein precludes investigation or prosecution where there is a reasonable basis to believe that compliance with state law is being invoked as a pretext for the production or distribution of marijuana for purposes not authorized by state law. Nor does this guidance preclude investigation or prosecution, even when there is clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state law, in particular circumstances where investigation or prosecution otherwise serves important federal interests.

Your offices should continue to review marijuana cases for prosecution on a case-by-case basis, consistent with the guidance on resource allocation and federal priorities set forth herein, the consideration of requests for federal assistance from state and local law enforcement authorities, and the Principles of Federal Prosecution.

cc: All United States Attorneys

Lanny A. Breuer
Assistant Attorney General Criminal Division

B. Todd Jones
United States Attorney
District of Minnesota
Chair, Attorney General’s Advisory Committee

Michele M. Leonhart
Acting Administrator
Drug Enforcement Administration

H. Marshall Jarrett
Director
Executive Office for United States Attorneys

Kevin L. Perkins
Assistant Director
Criminal Investigative Division
Federal Bureau of Investigation

Source.