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Latest DOJ Memo Emphasizes Why We Must Pass HR 2306, The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act Of 2011

  • by Paul Armentano, NORML Deputy Director July 1, 2011

    On Wednesday the Obama administration for the second time in two years issued a Department of Justice memorandum regarding the state-sanctioned use and production of medical cannabis. However, unlike the release of the 2009 ‘Ogden memo,’ which the administration promoted with great fanfare, the issuance of this week’s ‘Cole memorandum’ is strategically being downplayed by the Justice Department.

    As for the content of the memo, which you can read in full here, it’s hardly surprising — particularly in light of the administration’s recent, and highly public threats to lawmakers in states wishing to enact medical marijuana laws or expand upon their existing programs.

    Perhaps most notably, the memorandum states that the recent flurry of intimidating US Attorney letters to state lawmakers are ‘entirely consistent’ with the Obama administration’s position. In other words, the administration is now on record in support of claims made by US Attorneys in Rhode Island, Washington, and other states alleging that state employees could be targeted and federally prosecuted for simply registering and licensing medical cannabis patients or providers — a position that is even more extreme than that of the previous administration. (Notably to date, however, no state employee — or for that matter, no state sanctioned dispensary operator — has ever been prosecuted by the federal government.)

    The memo goes on to state that the federal government distinguishes between individual medical cannabis patients and third party providers, indicating that it is a poor use of federal resources (rather than a poor use of judgment) to target the former, while indicating that the latter are fair game for federal prosecution. It states:

    “A number of states have enacted some form of legislation relating to the medical use of marijuana. Accordingly the Ogden memo reiterated to you that prosecution of significant traffickers in illegal drugs, including marijuana, remains a core priority, but advised that it is likely not an efficient use of federal resources to focus enforcement efforts on individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses who use marijuana as part of a recommended treatment regimen consistent with applicable state law, or their caregivers. The term “caregiver” as used in the memorandum meant just that: individuals providing care to individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses, not commercial operations cultivating, selling or distributing marijuana.”

    Finally, the memo acknowledges that there has been an increase in the number of states that have either enacted or are considering enacting state laws allowing for the licensed production and distribution of cannabis to authorized patients. (To date, such state-licensed dispensaries are up and running in Colorado, New Mexico, and Maine; laws permitting such facilities are on the books in Arizona, Delaware, the District of Columbia, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Vermont.) Clearly, the federal government is not at all pleased with this progress.

    The Odgen Memorandum was never intended to shield such activities from federal enforcement action and prosecution, even where those activities purport to comply with state law. 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. Consistent with the resource constraints and the discretion you may exercise in your district, such persons are subject to federal enforcement action, including potential prosecution. State laws or local ordinances are not a defense to civil enforcement of federal law with respect to such conduct, including enforcement of the CSA. Those who engage in transactions involving the proceeds of such activity may also be in violation of federal money laundering statutes and other federal financing laws.”

    Regardless of how one wishes to interpret the latest memo from the DOJ, one thing is clear. States will never truly enjoy the freedom to experiment with alternative marijuana policies until the federal government is compelled to get out of their way. Only the passage of HR 2306, the ‘Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011,’ can make that happen.

    House Bill 2306 mimics changes enacted by Congress that repealed the federal prohibition of alcohol by removing the federal government’s power to prosecute minor marijuana offenders. It would eliminate the existing conflict between federal law and the laws of those sixteen states that already allow for the limited use of marijuana under a physicians’ supervision. Further, it would permit state governments that wish to fully legalize and regulate the responsible use, possession, production, and intrastate distribution of marijuana for all adults to be free to do so without federal interference.

    State lawmakers should be free to explore alternate marijuana policies — including medicalization, decriminalization, and/or legalization — without being held hostage to archaic federal prohibition or the whims of the Department of Justice. Contact your member of Congress and urge him or her to vote ‘yes’ on HR 2306.

    112 Responses to “Latest DOJ Memo Emphasizes Why We Must Pass HR 2306, The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act Of 2011”

    1. Tim says:

      Enact H.R. 2306 because I want my rights as a citizen granted to me. Stop playing games and “big daddy”, quit trying to impose their personal rules and beliefs on me, and stay out of my life. When I write, they always write back quoting all their personal views, or just don’t respond. Read and ponder the main paragraph in the Declaration of Independence! How do we re-enact it?

      “…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.”

      …”but when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”

    2. hafreed says:

      Obama wrote of his cannabis use in his book, “Dreams From My Father”. As a former user, now President, he is not fooled by the propaganda as some other ignorant politicians may be. Knowing what he knows, he still chooses to support policy that is based on falsehood. He will not even voice his opinion or start an honest debate. Cowardice.

      This nation has some big problems to work on, but the lies and manipulation that put marijuana on schedule one strike at the core of the justice and freedom that this nation is supposed to be about. Until truth is brought to this issue, I remain a criminal along with millions of other Americans who feel their government has overstepped its constitutional bounds in the name of taking freedom from citizens for their own good.

    3. jimmyd says:

      July 6, 2011- Kent Wa. Police raided 4 MMJ dispensaries, seizing marijuana, phones and computers. The Obama DOJ threats are working just fine. I see a one term President. Hey Holder, got those guns back yet, guess calderons not to happy. The war on drugs continues!

    4. Fireweed says:

      How does one person (Lamar Whatsahoozit) get to make a unilateral uncheckable decision for 150 million citizens who support legalization? Long live the king?

    5. The American Genesist says:

      105. Fireweed

      “There are not Kings in America” – and – if one thinks he is a King – it’s time to dethrone his delusional ass.

    6. KEVIN says:

      “Rookie Says:
      July 2nd, 2011 at 10:03 am

      Mr. Lamar Smith has spoken and this Bill will not see the light of day. It will not see a hearing and it will not see a vote..

      Now lets find a cause that we can promote and win…this one is dead…”
      ———- ———– ———— ————

      I thought there are a few ways to get bills out of committee over the chairman’s objections or shenanigans. Would this be possible in 2306′s case?

    7. The American Genesist says:

      107. Kevin

      “Now lets find a cause that we can promote and win…this one is dead…”

      It’s only dead if you let it be dead. Actually – it’s still a great slap in Smith’s face – so – let’s ride this horse hard and put it away wet.

    8. Tonebone says:

      One word. Fascism.

      None of the Feds acts makes any sense, except, when you finally realize that the target is YOU, it all falls together.

      You are the target. You are to be kept sick, kept busy paying taxes, kept under pressure to conform to vaccines given to children with parental consent, kept uninformed as to the ingredients in your water, food and air.

      You are the target. Begin by calling your representative and tell them that you want the US out of the IMF, UN, BIS. That you want true State’s Rights.

      We are 350 million of us against a very few.

    9. [...] a Department of Justice (DOJ) target. Holder affirmed the basic tenets of the previous Ogden and Cole memos, and wouldn’t provide assurances, but, re-iterated the DOJ stance that enforcing medical [...]

    10. [...] a Department of Justice (DOJ) target. Holder affirmed the basic tenets of the previous Ogden and Cole memos, and wouldn’t provide assurances, but, re-iterated the DOJ stance that enforcing [...]

    11. [...] a Department of Justice (DOJ) target. Holder affirmed the basic tenets of the previous Ogden and Cole memos, and wouldn’t provide assurances, but, re-iterated the DOJ stance that enforcing medical [...]

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