New Justice Department Threatens Raids on Pot Shops
t seems a day doesn’t go by where medical marijuana isn’t on the receiving end of wicked bully smack-down. From Governor Chris Christie’s weakening of New Jersey’s medical marijuana law, to the Feds unremitting war against cancer patients, government agencies are keeping it in the closet similar to gay marriage.
Medical marijuana advocates are fighting against a new Justice Department threat to raid and prosecute medical pot shops even in states where the drug is legal.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, Barack Obama pledged to put an ed to the nefarious raid that were so ubiquitous during the Bush Administration. Upon assuming office, President Obama issued a memo that instructed federal law enforcement officials to back off. Furthermore, If a person was in compliance with state and local laws, the memo instructed to just leave them alone.
However, Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole issued a new memo that ostensibly claims to provide “guidance” on the previous memo, but the memo looks more like a leaflet warning pot shops that the Justice Department is about to bomb them.
The previous memo, Cole writes, “advised that it is likely not an efficient use of federal resources to focus enforcement efforts on individuals with cancer or other serious ill.”
Naturally, pot shop owners are livid.
Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, said “cancer patients are going to have to grow their own product or buy it on the street somewhere.”
Although rightfully outraged, Smith doesn’t think shops will be deterred and forced to close their doors in the face of the threat.
“I don’t think anybody’s going to close down as a result of the memo. People are nervous, but this industry — particularly look at California, which bloomed pretty quickly during the Bush administration, when there were weekly raids.”
It seems that law enforcement officials are equally bothered by the memo.
Tom Angell, a spokesman for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, said that “by threatening to raid state-legal and regulated compassion centers, the Obama administration is causing more patients — and more tax-free money — to be diverted to the violent black market, where drug cartels and gangs battle it out for profits.”
Steve DeAngelo, owner of Harborside Health Center, cited the potential psychological trauma that would be inflicted on sick patients being forced to wonder if their pot shop would close at any given moment.
“When things like this happen, they really send a shock through the patient community, which is vulnerable and shaky,” DeAngelo said.
DeAngelo may have raised money for Obama in 2008, but now he’s thinking of voting for a Republican such as Ron Paul in 2012. Irrespective of the political ramifications, he’s not closing Harborside. “We made our decision five years ago when we opened our doors, come hell or high water,” he said. “They can come close me down, but I will not do it voluntarily under any circumstances whatsoever.”
No matter what your feelings on the magic weed are, nobody can deny that it legitimately helps people suffering from terminal illnesses, and that those people deserve the right to access it in states where it’s permissible–free from pesky government interference.
The entire memo can be read below.
June 29, 2011
MEMORANDUM FOR UNITED STATES ATTORNEYS
FROM: James M. Cole Deputy Attorney General
SUBJECT: Guidance Regarding the Ogden Memo in Jurisdictions Seeking to Authorize Marijuana for Medical Use
Over the last several months some of you have requested the Department’s assistance in responding to inquiries from State and local governments seeking guidance about the Department’s position on enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) in jurisdictions that have under consideration, or have implemented, legislation that would sanction and regulate the commercial cultivation and distribution of marijuana purportedly for medical use. Some of these jurisdictions have considered approving the cultivation of large quantities of marijuana, or broadening the regulation and taxation of the substance. You may have seen letters responding to these inquiries by several United States Attorneys. Those letters are entirely consistent with the October 2009 memorandum issued by Deputy Attorney General David Ogden to federal prosecutors in States that have enacted laws authorizing the medical use o f marijuana (the “Ogden Memo”).
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 that the illegal distribution and sale o f marijuana is a serious crime that provides a significant source o f revenue to large scale criminal enterprises, gangs, and cartels. The Ogden Memorandum provides guidance to you in deploying your resources to enforce the CSA as part of the exercise of the broad discretion you are given to address federal criminal matters within your districts.
A number of states have enacted some form of legislation relating to the medical use of marijuana. Accordingly,the Ogden Memo reiterated to you that prosecution of significant traffickers of illegal drugs, including marijuana, remains a core priority, but advised that it is likely not an efficient use of federal resources to focus enforcement efforts on individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses who use marijuana as part of a recommended treatment regimen consistent with applicable state law, or their caregivers. The term “caregiver” as used in the memorandum meant just that: individuals providing care to individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses, not commercial operations cultivating, selling or distributing marijuana.
The Department’s view of the efficient use of limited federal resources as articulated in the Ogden Memorandum has not changed. There has, however, been an increase in the scope of commercial cultivation, sale, distribution and use of marijuana for purported medical purposes. For example, within the past 12 months, several jurisdictions have considered or enacted legislation to authorize multiple large-scale, privately-operated industrial marijuana cultivation centers. Some of these planned facilities have revenue projections of millions of dollars based on the planned cultivation of tens of thousands of cannabis plants.
The Ogden Memorandum was never intended to shield such activities from federal enforcement action and prosecution, even where those activities purport to comply with state law. Persons who are in the business of cultivating, selling or distributing marijuana, and those who knowingly facilitate such activities, are in violation of the Controlled Substances Act, regardless of state law. Consistent with resource constraints and the discretion you may exercise in your district, such persons are subject to federal enforcement action, including potential prosecution. State laws or local ordinances are not a defense to civil or criminal enforcement of federal law with respect to such conduct, including enforcement of the CSA. Those who engage in transactions involving the proceeds of such activity may also be in violation of federal money laundering statutes and other federal financial laws.
The Department of Justice is tasked with enforcing existing federal criminal laws in all states, and enforcement of the CSA has long been and remains a core priority.
cc: Lanny A. Breuer Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division
B. Todd Jones United States Attorney District of Minnesota Chair, AGAC
Michele M. Leonhart 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 Investigations