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Why Are The Feds Still Meddling With States’ Medical Marijuana Laws?

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director April 15, 2011

    It was just three years ago when President Obama (then candidate Obama) famously pledged to no longer use federal “Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws” regulating the physician authorized use of medical cannabis. And it was in the fall of 2009 that the administration issued the Ogden memorandum to federal prosecutors directing them to not “focus federal resources … on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.”

    Yet in recent days the administration has seen fit to interject itself in the ongoing legislative debate to establish and regulate medical marijuana dispensaries in Washington state. Last week, on the eve of a final House vote regarding Senate Bill 5073, the U.S. attorney for Eastern Washington issued a statement warning landlords that they could face forfeiture of their properties if they rent to licensed medical marijuana facilities. Undeterred, the House passed SB 5073 (the Senate had previously passed an earlier version of the bill), setting up a potential showdown between lawmakers and Democrat Gov. Chris Gregoire.

    In an April 14, 2011 letter to Gov. Gregoire from the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Attorneys Jenny Durkan of Seattle and Michael Ormsby of Spokane wrote, “[W]e maintain the authority to enforce the Controlled Substances Act vigorously against individuals and manufacturing and distribution activity involving marijuana, even if such activities are permitted under state law.”

    The letter continues: “The Washington legislative proposals will create a licensing scheme that permits large-scale marijuana cultivation and distribution. This would authorize conduct contrary to federal law. … Accordingly, the Department [of Justice] could consider civil and criminal legal remedies who set up marijuana growing facilities … or who knowingly facilitate the actions of the licensees. … [S]tate employees who conducted activities mandated by the Washington legislative proposals would not be immune from liability under the Controlled Substances Act.”

    Predictably, Gov. Gregoire is now shying away from the proposal. As reported by the Seattle Times, the Governor stated “In light of the Department of Justice’s guidance, it is clear that I cannot sign a bill that authorizes our state employees to license marijuana dispensaries when the department would prosecute those involved.” The Times noted that Gregoire “pledged to work with lawmakers on a new proposal.”

    Is the Governor using the Feds’ letter as political cover to denounce a measure that she never intended to sign in the first place? Maybe. But the bigger picture is that the federal officials still seem content to selectively interject in the state lawmaking process as it pertains to the medical access to marijuana.

    Will the Feds most recent threats have a potential chilling effect on pending legislation in Delaware, Illinois, and Vermont — additional states where lawmakers recently voted in favor of establishing similar state-licensed medical marijuana dispensaries? And what, if anything, do these threats imply for states like Colorado, Maine, New Mexico, and Rhode Island where such facilities have already been authorized by the state? Time will tell, but at present time it’s not looking good.

    ‘Change we can believe in?’ Not when it comes to medical marijuana policy.

    135 Responses to “Why Are The Feds Still Meddling With States’ Medical Marijuana Laws?”

    1. David762 says:

      Perhaps I am confused.

      I was under the impression that this was still a constitutional republic under the rule of law established by the USA Constitution with a Bill of Rights, based upon English common law which stretches back nearly 800 years to the Magna Carta. Did I miss a memo, or perhaps an Executive Order (from that dictatorial all-powerful “Unitary Executive”)?

      IIRC, Alcohol Prohibition was passed by a number of Municipalities, Counties, and States long before the Eighteenth Amendment was passed by Congress, and subsequently approved by the required 2/3rds majority of the States. From 1920 until 1933, Alcohol Prohibition was the law of the land. Yet there were a number of States which, prior to the 1933 passage of the Twenty-First Amendment repealing Alcohol Prohibition, opted out (early) from enforcing this law. AFAIK, these States were not punished by the Federal government — their independence was instead respected.

      How was a State’s electing to opt out of Alcohol Prohibition somehow less meaningful in the era of Alcohol Prohibition, under the color of a USA Constitutional Amendment, than opting out of Marijuana Prohibition about 80 years later, covered merely by Congressional legislation, namely the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937 (which had little to do with taxes) and the Controlled Substances Act of 1970?

      What such dramatic shift of power and sovereignty away from the individual State governments to the Federal government in the past 80 years occurred, which would defy and deny those rights as delineated in the 9th and 10th Amendments to the USA Constitution? Such an event should have been a notable, even remarkable milestone in American history not seen since Reconstruction at the end of the Civil War and the passage of the Posse Comitatus Act.

      Perhaps those legislatures and governors of States that seek to liberalize the Prohibition of Marijuana, either through Medical Marijuana, cannabis decriminalization or re-legalization laws need to grow a spine as well as a pair of gonads. Pass the liberalization laws as you see fit to meet the needs of your citizens, as guaranteed under the USA Constitution to sovereign States, but add a twist or two — make it illegal for any State employee elected or appointed to assist in any way Federal agents or employees in the application of Federal laws in conflict with State laws. An additional State sovereign enhancement might be to make illegal any action of Federal agents or employees to enforce Federal laws in conflict with State laws, under threat of steep fines and lengthy prison terms. What would the Federal government dare to do in response, perhaps declare martial law and invade that State with Federal troops?

      I would think that the very last thing that a sitting President seeking reelection would want to do is force a Constitutional crisis over State’s Rights versus the more limited and enumerated Federal Rights. It would expose for all to see what I suspect is a Banana Republic tin-horn dictator with fascistic tendencies sitting in the Oval Office, instead of a former Constitutional Law Scholar with recessive populist small “d” democratic tendencies. President Barack “Hoover” Obama would face a Democratic Primary challenger and lose, or cast the Democratic Party into the political wilderness for a generation or so. Third Parties, or new political parties, have been thrust into power with less advantage given.

    2. Matt says:

      Cops got to have that overtime check!
      Banks got to have that drug money!
      Pharma got to sell those pharmaceuticals!
      Politicians got to get that corporate re-election!
      Churches got to push that oppression!
      Defense got to keep them soldiers angry!
      All got to keep your mind where it is, lest they loose it all!

    3. This article has left me absolutely aggravated! Why is the governor backing down from what the people of his state want? Gregoire needs to sign it because it is his state’s right to disagree with Federal law, just as stated by David762 in comment 101 above. He said it well. We all have a right to stand up to the Federal government on this, every state!

    4. The American Genesist says:

      HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT – “THE PLAN.”.

      1. DEA-FDA reschedules whole plant material extracts to schedule III [federally legal] leaving the whole plant material in schedule I [federally illegal].
      2. DEA Memorandum 02.01.11. Government Intimidation [DOJ] – enforce federal law on state sovereignty through Government Supremacy Clause. Dispensary raids [including threats of asset forfeiture to landlords].
      3. “No Home Grow” legislation in all 50 states [including compassionate use states].
      4. S-510 – no organic seeds, only GMO’s – Inspection Clause. No imported seeds.
      5. What am I missing here? More to come.

      Question: Are all of these actions inescapably married to one another? One thing is fairly evident – they don’t want to aid the economy with revenues derived from legalization. It appears – they intentionally want to kill the economy. It appears that the real motive behind all of this chicanery is to “defeat state sovereignty.”

      Point: Once you extract THC [which has been federally legal since Merinol] from the whole plant material – what do you have left? Conclusion: What is left is a “harmless non-psychoactive plant – the most nutritious complete natural food known to man.” that should not be on any scheduled substance list – not any more than any vegetable. This only confirms the fact that the FDA doesn’t know a food from a drug – or – their ass from a hole in the ground.

      Point: A line has been drawn in the sand.
      Question: Which side are you on. Make your choice.

    5. Jeff Elton says:

      “State employees who conducted activities mandated by the Washington legislative proposals would not be immune from liability under the Controlled Substances Act.”–Change the CSA so that any State that Legalizes Medical Cannabis will not be breaking the law. That’s a no brainer. But we all know the U.S. Federal Gov’t does not want Medical Cannabis available to its citizens. Even though there is concrete evidence that Cannabis KILLS CANCER CELLS. Of this there is no doubt. So draw your own conclusions as to why the U.S. ignores modern day Medical Science in favor of there arbitrary decision to keep Cannabis in Schedule I. It is not a mistake that you cannot sue the federal Gov’t regarding Safe & Legal access to Medical Cannabis. They new Cannabis Kills Cancer working in conjunction with the Human Endocannabinoid System. Our bodies, as do all other multi-cellular organisms, evolved the Endocannabinoid System 50,000,000 years ago to protect the body from toxins encountered in daily life. This is why there are so many people dieing from cancer, the Federal Gov’t is well aware of the Cancer Killing effects of Cannabis. Which is why they do not want people to have access to this extremely therapeutic substance. It would mean a big financial loss for Big Pharma, doctor & hospital visits and for those heavily invested in such things.

    6. Nic says:

      Soon and someday, all those drug cops, will be hunted down like common Nazis, Happy 4:20

    7. Yorgovich says:

      They’re trying to get the states and cities to pass laws/ordinances that require extensive record keeping, so they can do the footwork for the case for the feds, and just turn it over when it’s ready to be hauled off for trial!

      http://annarbor.com/news/marijuana-advocates-call-for-firing-of-ann-arbor-city-attorney-during-protest-in-front-of-city-hall/

      That’s about the one in Ann Arbor. A very liberal town, about to vote on a conservative, restrictive ordinance that would require CAREGIVERS to submit to zoning and licensing restrictions, pay fees, submit to regular police inspections, and more! (Vote up good comments if you have the time, I’m sure the council keeps an eye on local news voting).

    8. Sakume says:

      United States of Fascism and Tyranny. Know what really needs to be done? It’s our right to overthrow unjust governments. Why aren’t we overthrowing our government?

    9. darik says:

      They need to STOP BULLYING SICK PEOPLE AND GO GET AMERICAS ECONOMICAL BALANCE BACK FROM COLUMBIA THIS IS THE BALANCE THAT AMERICA NEEDED TO FALL BACK ON AFTER THE WAR IN IRAC INSTEAD YOU HAVE 20,000 TO 1.2 MILLION PEOPLE PER METRO CITY THAT HAVE NO JOB BUT A 700 TO 7000 DOLLAR A DAY COCAINE HABIT THEY ARE TRYING TO FILL

    10. DM says:

      This issue is a simple one, really. Tell EVERYONE you know on ALL of your social networks, I mean EVERYONE.
      When elections time rolls around, the problems will be corrected inevitably.

    11. Jeanne says:

      As the song goes: Money ,Money ,moneeeee. !!!!!

    12. The American Genesist says:

      CDXX Communion 04.22.11
      “The Reformation”

      “Problems corrected inevitably at the polls.”

      We can whole-heartedly believe in that – but – inevitably is down the road. We intend to plant our seeds today. The problem lies at the feet of prohibitionists – not Genesists. We stand, and defend our religious liberty guaranteed us in the “Establishment Clause” in the First Amendment of the Constitution of the United States of America. We’ve been down that road – and – well! – “Been there – done that.”

      “We will have our Sacrament – make no mistake about that!”

      Genesists declare a “Conscience Clause” forbidding us from obeying any law that “prohibits our Sacrament.” And – although prohibs have already heard us say “prohibit our Sacrament” a million times – they’re going to hear it a million times again.

    13. DM says:

      So vote for Ron Paul, he will help restore civil liberties, and get the FED out of our lives.

    14. David762 says:

      TO: #104 — The American Genesist Says

      Your points 1 – 4 are not missing the mark.

      The Corporate Oligarchy and their political stooges in the USA Congress and Executive Branch are working on the end-game of their plan for total domination of the economy and the subjugation of We the People. Government, all government, will be By the Corporation, For the Corporation, Of the Corporation.

      The insane continuation of cannabis prohibition and S-510 are both “canaries in the coal mine” to these Fascists’ “Big Plan” — total control of all foods, all nutritional supplements, all herbal remedies, all medicines are only part of the equation of their greed for total control.

      Trillions of dollars worth of future taxpayer debt has been channelled into the Too Big To Fail Banks, the Wall Street Mobsters, and crony corporate special interests. None of that money is going toward easing the real credit crisis in Main Street USA. The Fed Reserve has set the interest rates so low that all fungible funds are channelled into Wall Street and commodities futures — a thoroughly rigged game that is preparing for another contrived crisis to pop that bubble and “shear the sheeple”.

      This contrived Main Street USA credit crisis is intended to force the Federal and all State governments into dramatic and far-reaching privatization, not unlike what the Big Bankers, Wall Street Mobsters, and faux credit-rating agencies have been doing to other entire countries for decades. (Read Naomi Kline’s “Shock Doctrine”). Public utilities become private; public roads become toll roads; farmers are forced into using sterile hybrid GMO seeds; even rainwater cisterns become illegal. The interlocking cabal of corporate special interests will control every aspect of human life, not just in the USA but across the entire planet. Their avarice and greed knows no boundaries.

      With any luck, every one of these Fascists will eventually be hanging from lampposts, from New York City to New Delhi and from Washington DC to Washington State. Everyone have a good length of hemp rope handy?

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