Pages tagged "Ogden Memo"


Attorney General Holder Says One Thing While His U.S. Attorneys Do Another



 

 

 

 

 

Yesterday, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder answered questions before the House Judiciary Committee on his Justice Department’s handling of the now-famous federal ATF operation, “Fast and Furious.” During the hearing, Rep. Polis (D-CO) asked a series of questions on medical marijuana. Holder responded that the October 2009 Ogden memo de-emphasizing marijuana enforcement in medical marijuana states was still in effect. Specifically, Holder said that, “we will not use our limited resources,” to target people who “are acting in conformity with [state] law.” This seems to equate with the Ogden memo and the pledge that President Obama made before and after taking office. There’s only one (big) problem…the Justice Department is currently on a rampage in medical marijuana states, spending tax dollars like there was no fiscal crisis.

Over the past year, Obama’s Justice Department has spent millions of dollars raiding more than one hundred dispensaries in at least 7 states. Holder’s U.S. Attorneys have also sent threatening letters to public officials in 10 medical marijuana states, attempting to undermine the same laws that Holder purports to respect. In California, U.S. Attorneys are not only using raids to spread fear and intimidation, they are also threatening landlords with criminal prosecution and asset forfeiture if they continue leasing to medical marijuana dispensaries.

In March, the Obama Administration conducted the largest set of coordinated raids on medical marijuana facilities yet. No less than 8 federal agencies, including the DEA, FBI, EPA, ATF, OSHA, IRS, and ICE, worked with 22 local law enforcement agencies to execute 26 search warrants in 13 cities across Montana. A number of people were later indicted and are now dealing with federal prosecutions. At the time of the raids, the Justice Department complained of state law violations, but cases currently under way indicate the opposite.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Thaggard is trying to prevent several defendants from using a state law defense at their federal trial. To be robbed of a defense is a travesty, but unfortunately all too common in federal medical marijuana cases. Thaggard’s comments in an August court filing, however, underscore the hypocrisy of the Justice Department’s policy on medical marijuana:
Montana’s medical marijuana laws have no relevance to the present prosecution…

So, how long will President Obama, Attorney General Holder, and the U.S. Attorneys on a rabid attack against medical marijuana be able to prop up their Orwellian policy of saying one thing and doing another? Only time and a whole lot of pressure will tell.

DOJ memo sends a chilling message

[caption id="attachment_1678" align="alignnone" width="275" caption="Deputy US Attorney General James Cole"]
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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.

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.