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At a press conference earlier today in Providence, Rhode Island, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was peppered with questions about medical marijuana. This is understandable, given that a month ago U.S. Attorney Peter Neronha sent a letter to Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee and other state officials threatening:
[C]ivil or criminal remedies against those individuals and entities who set up marijuana growing facilities and dispensaries.
Holder responded that the White House policy outlined in the Ogden memo, which de-emphasized federal interference, “made sense given…the limited resources that we have.” Addressing the obvious discord between policy and practice, Holder said he was working in Rhode Island and other parts of the country to “clarify what this policy means and how the policy can be implemented.”
Holder further stated that:
What we have to do is try to effectuate that policy in a way that we give comfort to somebody who is using it appropriately.
Patient advocates are pleased that Holder wants to clarify this glaring contradiction in Justice Department policy. Rhode Island was not the only state to endure threats from U.S. Attorneys. The Justice Department sent letters to local and state officials in at least 10 different states. These letters and the ongoing federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raids occurring across the country have had a devastating impact on patients’ rights and safe access. Programs have been suspended not only in Rhode Island, but in Arizona and New Jersey as well. State and local laws were arguably curtailed by federal interference in California, Montana and Washington.
Holder did say that he wants the process of clarifying federal policy to involve “dialog” and “communication.” We certainly hope he includes patients -- the ones directly affected by these policies -- in the dialog. But, we’re not waiting for his invitation so stay tuned for ways to make your voice heard.