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Justice Department Case Highlights Federal-State Dispute Over Marijuana

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A case involving the Justice Department indictment of a California medical marijuana entrepreneur highlights the dispute between federal and state authorities over the drug, according to The New York Times. Questions over legal marijuana use are increasing now that Colorado and Washington have legalized the recreational use of the drug, and 18 states and the District of Columbia permit its medical use.

Matthew R. Davies opened a medical marijuana business, with a staff of 75, which generated $8 million in annual revenues. He paid California sales tax and filed for state and local business permits, the article notes. Six months ago, the Justice Department indicted Davies on charges of cultivating marijuana, after it raided two dispensaries, and a warehouse containing almost 2,000 marijuana plants.

The Justice Department wants Davies to agree to a plea that includes a mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison. Davies says he has followed California law in setting up his business. He is currently free on $100,000 bail.

His lawyers have appealed to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, to stop the prosecution. They point to President Obama’s statement in December that the federal government has “bigger fish to fry” than going after recreational marijuana users.

“This is not a case of an illicit drug ring under the guise of medical marijuana,” one of Davies’ lawyers, Elliot R. Peters, wrote to Holder. “Here, marijuana was provided to qualified adult patients with a medical recommendation from a licensed physician. Records were kept, proceeds were tracked, payroll and sales taxes were duly paid.”

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