DOJ turns the heat up… just a little higher on state approved medical marijuana

Rep. Jared Polis (Kersgaard)

A memo written this week by U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Cole removes any doubt about how the federal government views medical marijuana, and it ain’t pretty if you’re someone who thinks following the law of the state is good enough.

While the DOJ continues to say they won’t go out of their way to prosecute seriously ill patients and their caregivers, they leave little doubt as to how they feel about large scale dispensary type businesses.

From the Associated Press:

“There has, however, been an increase in the scope of commercial cultivation, sale, distribution and use of marijuana for purported medical purposes,” says the new memo by Cole.

The deputy attorney general said 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,” Cole wrote.

Cole said that 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.”

Cole added: “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.”

In a letter to members, Aaron Smith, executive director of the National Cannabis Industry Association, wrote:

The U.S. Department of Justice’s recently-issued departmental policy flies in the face of President Obama’s past promises to respect state medical marijuana laws. I know many of you have already expressed your frustration over this betrayal and I hope you and your business respond by getting involved in federal advocacy for our industry.

The DOJ memo, authored by Deputy Attorney General James Cole, directs federal prosecutors to take action against businesses providing medical cannabis to patients — even if they are abiding by state law. This position is in direct conflict with numerous statements made by President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder since 2008.

The Obama Administration is essentially turning sick and dying patients out to the streets for their medicine rather than allowing them to obtain it through open, safe, and regulated facilities.

Colorado Congressman Jared Polis responded to the letter:

“The Justice Department’s announcement is insufficient because it fails to lift the threat of arrests and prosecutions from legal, state regulated, voter-endorsed medical marijuana businesses. Colorado has proven that medical marijuana can be successfully regulated and taxed, which helps patients suffering debilitating diseases and pain, while also increasing state revenues.

“While I am disappointed with the June 29 memo, it again makes clear that U.S. attorneys are afforded discretion when prioritizing their limited enforcement resources. It’s obvious to all that the Department’s limited tax dollars are better spent going after real criminals, such as Mexican drug lords, rather than well-regulated, state-legal business.

“The Department’s stance again makes the case for the passage of the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, which was authored by Congressman Barney Frank, and which I proudly cosponsor, but in the mean time they can do better than this memo and I encourage them to do so.”

Polis is the author of the Small Business Banking Improvement Act, a bill that would ensure that legal, state-regulated medical marijuana businesses receive fair access to financial services.

Scot Kersgaard has been managing editor of a political newspaper, editor and co-owner of a ski town newspaper, executive editor of eight high-tech magazines (where he worked with current Apple CEO Tim Cook), deputy press secretary to a U.S. Senator, and an outdoors columnist at the Rocky Mountain News. He has an English degree from the University of Washington. He was awarded a fellowship to study internet journalism at the University of Maryland's Knight Center for Specialized Journalism. He was student body president in college. He spends his free time hiking and skiing.

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