VIDEO: Polis questions Holder on medical marijuana

Colorado Congressman Jared Polis wasted no time in taking advantage of his appointment to the Judiciary Committee. Thursday Polis sat down with Attorney General Eric Holder and asked whether the Ogden memo was still in effect.

Holder said the memo–which said that the Justice Department would be unlikely to prosecute people on federal drug laws if they were in compliance with individual state’s laws regarding medical mnarijuana–is still in effect.

Polis, noting that medical marijuana businesses face a difficult, if not impossible, task in opening bank accounts, asked Holder whether the Department of Justice would prosecute banks or law-abiding medical marijuana businesses for deposits related to sales of marijuana. Again, Holder said such cases would be a low priority.

Reached by email after the exchange, Polis communications director Chris Fitzgerald said:

Congressman Polis is pleased that Attorney General Holder once again affirmed that state-legal and well-regulated medical marijuana businesses are not an enforcement priority for the Justice Department, which is in keeping with his and the Department’s statements on the matter for some time now. Colorado has shown that marijuana can and should be regulated at the state level.

“Eric Holder said ‘I don’t know’ three or four times,” noted Art Way, Colorado manager for the Drug Policy Alliance. “He didn’t really address the issue with banks. The climate for legal medical marijuana businesses is not really as good as Holder would have us believe. They have sent threatening letters to landlords and others, and that really goes against the spirit of the Ogden memo.

“Medical marijuana businesses in Denver employ 5000 people. It is a viable industry that is really helping us in a hard economic time, with no negative effect on public safety,” Way said.

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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