Pages tagged "Department of Justice"


DOJ memo sends a chilling message

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In a move that impacts hundreds of thousands of medical cannabis patients nationwide, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) sent a chilling message tonight to state and local officials who are seeking to implement medical cannabis laws and to those trying to provide legal medicine: You may be prosecuted.  In a memo to US Attorneys nationwide, US Deputy Attorney General James Cole said that
Persons who are in the business of cultivating, selling or distributing marijuana, and those who knowingly facilitate such activities… 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… 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.

Americans for Safe Access (ASA) is calling on members and supporters to get ready for a large-scale national response to the DOJ threats that could stymie implementation of state and local laws and make getting medicine harder. We have to let President Obama know that federal interference and intimidation hurts patients – and we expect him to do better!



Preventing state and local governments from regulating medical cannabis activity is counterproductive and harmful to legal patients, most of whom cannot or will not grow their own medicine. Without anywhere to obtain their doctor-approved medicine, hundreds of thousands of legal patients are left to fend for themselves and are pushed into the unregulated illicit market. That is not what voters and lawmakers intended when they adopted medical cannabis laws in seventeen states and the District of Columbia.

The threat of using money laundering and other federal financial crimes is particularly onerous in the current political landscape. Under pressured federal pressure, many banks are denying services to medical cannabis providers; and the IRS is auditing providers in California and Colorado using antiquated codes designed to penalize drug cartels. Fanning these flames only makes menaingful regulation harder. Why not let legislation sponsored by US Representatives Jared Polis (D-CO) and Pete Stark (D-CA) address these issues without intimidating lawmakers, regulators, tax collectors, providers, and others?

This long-awaited clarification from the DOJ upholds the recent status quo of aggressive enforcement against state and local medical cannabis laws, in direct contradiction to Obama's comment on the campaign trail that he was "not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws." Until states and localities have the ability to adopt and enforce their own laws regarding the production and distribution of medical cannabis, federal interference and intimidation will continue to undermine the rights of the very patients the DOJ purports to recognize.

We can do better than the same old federal posture. President Obama should end the criminal prosecution of medical cannabis providers who are obeying state law and cooperate with state and local officials trying to implement rational, compassionate policies. A good first step would be to respond to the nine-year old rescheduling petition that seeks to remove medical cannabis from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. The President could also support legislative efforts to harmonize federal law with the laws of the states where medical cannabis is legal. Support for US Representative Barney Frank’s (D-MA) HR 1983 would go a long way towards bridging the federal divide and reassuring state and local officials that it is OK to implement the law. It may also help persuade legal patients and providers that it is OK to obey it.

3 More Indictments in Federal Campaign Against Medical Marijuana



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The federal government indicted three people yesterday in Montana, continuing its campaign to undermine medical marijuana laws across the country. The indictment against Jason Burns, Joshua Schultz, and Jesse Leland who were providing medical marijuana to state-qualified patients in Montana, is a result of 26 raids executed in March by no less than 8 federal agencies and an array of local law enforcement.

Despite an October 2009 Justice Department memorandum de-emphasizing federal enforcement against medical marijuana, President Obama has been responsible for more than 100 aggressive SWAT-style federal raids in at least 7 states since taking office. Yesterday’s indictment is added to a list of more than 2-dozen similar medical marijuana-related indictments in the past 2 years.

Whether or not you agree that medical marijuana patients and providers accused of local or state law violations should be tried in state court – we certainly do – they should be given a chance to defend themselves. Unfortunately, patients and providers prosecuted in federal court are prevented from using a medical or state law defense. U.S. Attorneys know this and use it to their advantage to unfairly try medical marijuana defendants like Burns, Schultz, and Leland. Whether they are accused of making a profit or somehow violating state law matters not in federal court and it will never be raised as an issue at trial. In fact, federal prosecutors will even object to the words “medical marijuana” being used in front of the jury.

Let’s call a spade, a spade. The federal government goes after medical marijuana providers because it’s easy. People bold enough to commit federal civil disobedience every day to bring medical marijuana to patients who need it and are qualified to use it do not hide in the shadows. Many are listed in the phone book or on other public lists. They often run storefront businesses and some even advertise. Federal enforcement against medical marijuana providers is like picking low hanging fruit.

Once in federal court, U.S. Attorneys need only to show that marijuana was present and that it was being provided to another person and, presto, you can convict anyone on an array of federal felonies. If the provider places his or her proceeds in a bank, you can add money laundering and other financial offenses to the list of felonies.

The problem is that the federal government isn’t just racking up more points in its insatiable “war on drugs,” it’s also, and more importantly, playing with people’s lives. In a letter sent earlier this week to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Congressional members Barney Frank (D-MA) and Jared Polis (D-CO) explain that targeting medical marijuana providers:
harms the people whose major goal is to seek relief from pain wholly caused by illness.

Holder would do well to heed the Congressmen’s words and let local and state officials enforce their own medical marijuana laws. It makes economic sense and it brings this country closer to addressing medical marijuana as the public health issue that it is.

Congress to AG Holder: Let States Implement Medical Marijuana Laws without Federal Interference



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Congressional members Barney Frank (D-MA) and Jared Polis (D-CO) wrote to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder earlier this week urging him to re-avow his commitment to an October 2009 memorandum that de-emphasized federal enforcement regarding medical marijuana.

The 2009 memo was drafted by then-Deputy Attorney General David Ogden and sent to all of the U.S. Attorneys in medical marijuana states. Since then, some of those same U.S. Attorneys have sent letters to local and state officials in at least 10 states, threatening some of them with criminal prosecution if they implement licensed production and distribution systems.

According to The Hill, Frank and Polis in their June 20th letter pointed to the stark divide between federal policy and practice:
Recent actions by United States Attorneys across the country have prompted states to deny patients safe and reliable access to their medicine.

Further emphasizing this point, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag sent a letter to Oakland, California City Attorney John Russo in February stating that the Justice Department:
will enforce the [Controlled Substances Act] vigorously against individuals and organizations that participate in unlawful manufacturing and distribution activity involving marijuana, even if such activities are permitted under state law.

Letters sent to lawmakers in the States of Arizona, California, Hawaii, Montana, Rhode Island, and Washington have killed, derailed or suspended the implementation of local medical marijuana laws. Frank and Polis responded to this intimidation by explaining how obstructing medical marijuana laws needlessly expends precious federal resources and “harms the people whose major goal is to seek relief from pain wholly caused by illness.”
There are now hundreds of thousands of medical marijuana patients in states where the medication is legal. These patients will either purchase medical marijuana safely at state-regulated entities or seek it through unregulated channels in the criminal market.

Any day now, Holder is expected to announce a “clarification” to the Ogden memo. Patients and supporters are encouraged to contact his office and let Holder know that the federal government should let local and state governments implement their own medical marijuana laws and to focus on developing a federal policy that recognizes marijuana’s medical efficacy. Anything less would be a disservice to our most vulnerable.

ASA on DOJ Pressure in the Huffington Post



From ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer in today's Huffington Post -
In February, Oakland City Attorney John Russo asked the Obama Justice Department whether his city's plan to regulate large-scale medical marijuana cultivation would get the approval of the federal government. As expected, U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag responded to Russo with a declarative "No!" Little did patient advocates realize, though, that Haag's letter would begin a trend resulting in similar U.S. Attorney letters sent to local and state officials in at least 9 different medical marijuana states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

Read the entire post online.

May 2: Order the DEA to Cease and Desist, Rally for Patients' Rights!

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Stand in solidarity with me for a National Day of Action this Monday, May 2, 2011.  Our community is sick and tired. We are suffering from chronic or debilitating conditions, and we are weary of false promises that do nothing to protect our rights as patients. 



After previously giving us a false sense of security, the Obama administration now continues to ignore state laws and raid medical cannabis patients and facilities, while creating new ways to marginalize our community, including issues related to patient privacy, access, banking, taxation, and threats of filing suit against state employees who participate in upholding state law. This community is still under attack. 

Just yesterday, our community witnessed raid activity in Washington State and on Monday, our community will lose two more of our brothers and sisters to the failed war on drugs.  Dale Shafer and Dr. Mollie fry will turn themselves over to federal agents to serve five-year mandatory minimum sentences for legally participating in state sanctioned medical cannabis programs.  Enough is enough and Monday, May 2, 2011 is our time to take stand against federal interference! 

Fellow community members and local activists are preparing to deliver ASA’s Cease and Desist to local DEA offices and federal buildings across the country.  Commit to do the same. Join activists in several cities across the country.  Locations include, but are not limited to, the following areas: Washington State, Oregon, Rhode Island, Colorado, Montana, Michigan, Maine, New Jersey, Washington, DC, California, Arizona, Nevada, and Maryland.  To find out what is going on in your area, email action@safeaccessnow.org, or print out the Cease and Desist Order and take it to a local DEA Office or Federal Building near you on Monday!! Remember: if you don’t stand up for safe access, who will?

Special Patients' Rights Rallies will be occurring in both Washington, DC outside of the Department of Justice at 12pEST (event flyer) and outside of the Federal Courthouse in Sacramento, CA at 12pPST for Dale Schafer and Dr. Mollie Fry (event flyer).

It's thanks to the support from our members that ASA is able to hold Days of Action like this one. Please consider making a donation to ASA today, so we can continue to strengthen our fight for safe access.

I look forward to participating in our National Day of Action for patients' rights with you on Monday, May 2, 2011.