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.

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

    1. shaun says:

      seems like anytime we make any major break throughs they come through with another lame excuse or threat to stop how is it an ignorant government has so much power anyway local law enforcement seem to resemble small time government all there own why is this can it be stopped

    2. Stu Garrett says:

      They are just trying as hard as they can to slow or hault the process. I just feel sorry the people that have to go through all this bullshit, myself included. Marijuana is natures medicinal gift, why fight nature with ignorance? Its like they are hitting their heads against a wall and refuse to stop hurting themselves(aka hurting us)

    3. Don says:

      I believe that Obama changed the instant he won the position of President! That is change we can all believe in!

    4. Sharon Ravert says:

      Will someone please help me find the answer to a simple question – – In America in the last say 40 years or so what have 75% of the American people ever agreed on other than legalizing “medical cannabis”?

    5. somedood says:

      So much unjustified hate.

    6. truthandconse says:

      The Federal Government is doing all it can to prevent the marijuana market from becoming legitimized, contrary to the will of several state legislatures. The Feds obviously prefer to keep this market in the hands of criminals, thugs and cartels.

      Makes you wonder why??????????

    7. scott marlow says:

      If the feds allow five patients to receive federal medical cannabis,couldn’t they be sued on the grounds that the logic of the CSA is invalid?

    8. The American Genesist says:

      “We the People of the United States of America.” Man! – that has a beautiful ring to it. “Majority Rule” is an equally thrilling tingle in the ear. “Freedom” just blows me away. The only problem with these three phrases are – they have become “fantasy – a figment of our imagination- a mirage.” We are, if we “let it happen to us,” a controlled mass. How does “puppet” sound? We can at least show prohibitionists what’s in store for them 4 days from today on 4-20 @ 4:20. “Nothing happens unless we make it happen – and – we can make anything happen.” But! – We the People have to do it – no one is going to do it for us.

    9. Scared to Death says:

      The Federal administration that puts a state worker in jail for doing state work, will lose every elected office in that state.

    10. Tim says:

      The Federal Government is taking a taking a COMPLETE and TOTAL stand AGAINST our Nation’s Declaration of Independence and Constitution!!! It’s time to stop this. Period.
      Oh, yeah… – “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. ….”
      It is NOT the Federal Government’s purpose AT ALL to do what they are doing right now. They are NOT supposed to be setting up new laws against the states.

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