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Justice Department Says Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Could Face Prosecution


The U.S. Justice Department has announced that medical marijuana dispensaries and licensed growers located in states with medical marijuana laws are not immune from prosecution for violation of federal drug and money-laundering laws. Currently the medical use of marijuana is legal in 16 states and the District of Columbia, USA Today reports.

According to the article, Deputy Attorney General James Cole wrote a policy memo to federal prosecutors that states, “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.”

The Justice Department memo follows recent warning letters from the federal government to officials in several states including Washington, California, Colorado, Montana and Rhode Island about medical marijuana laws. The warning letters have prompted several states to start reevaluating their laws. The recent letters from U.S. attorneys indicate that people involved in the growing, dispensing and regulating of medical marijuana have the potential to be prosecuted—even if they are following state laws.

In 2009, the Justice Department said that prosecutors should not focus their investigations on patients and caregivers who complied with state medical marijuana laws, the newspaper states. Cole’s memo says that has not changed. A Justice Department spokesperson said the memo is a clarification of existing policy, rather than a new policy.

In a blog post about the Justice Department memo, the Office of National Drug Control Policy wrote, “Research shows that marijuana use in its raw form is harmful and its average potency has tripled in the past 20 years. Studies also show teens are using the drug at earlier ages and the earlier a person begins to use drugs, the more likely they are to progress to more serious abuse and addiction. According to HHS [the Department of Health and Human Services], past-year prevalence of marijuana dependence in the U.S. population is higher than that for any other illicit drug and over 150,000 people who showed up voluntarily at treatment facilities in 2009 reported marijuana as their primary substance of abuse.”

7 Responses to this article

  1. Avatar of research
    research / October 10, 2011 at 3:52 pm

    Does the tactic Fast and Furious mean anything to anybody here?

  2. Avatar of mike
    mike / October 7, 2011 at 2:32 am

    Alcohol is worst than marijuana so whats the point.

  3. Kevin C / September 28, 2011 at 3:10 pm

    First, we need to remember the intent behind federally decriminalizing marijuana; second, yes, money laundering and other such illegal activities should be prosecuted; third, The Justice Department has my blessings provided they pay the cost of prison out of their personal salaries for each marijuana-only related arrest in states where it has been legalized. Otherwise, let the states govern the regulation within their own boundaries.

  4. Avatar of Tom F
    Tom F / July 12, 2011 at 9:16 am

    Making something illegal will not stop its use. We have a failed “drug war” that only keeps people in a job but does nothing to change the problem. We are looking in the wrong direction to improve the problem. There are many prevention/health promotion programs that work and were working but in ore “wisdom” we put all the eggs into law enforcement taking it away from prevention. So we live with the results and it continues to get worse.

  5. Avatar of Hubert Massiah
    Hubert Massiah / July 8, 2011 at 7:05 pm

    When will we ever get a government with enough intelligence to realize that the only way to effectively deal with addictive substances is to legalize all aspects of the production, marketing and use of these substances – then develope clear and enforcable regulations related to everything that has to do with these substances. WAKE up people!!!

  6. maxwood / July 8, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    The use of abusive hot burning overdose delivery systems, such as cigarette rolling papers, cigar skins (which may also contain nicotine), big bowl pipes etc. (instead of harm reduction devices such as a vaporizer or a one-hitter utensil) produces “dopy” disease symptoms blamed on the cannabis itself or on a new “high potency” etc. The monopoly cigarette companies profiteer off a prevailing careless attitude toward reckless “smoking” equipment and practices and off the illegality of cannabis which keeps dosage-reduction equipment quasi-”illegal” along with it. It is the legal advent and popularization of such equipment which cigarette marketeers fear most, because present-day high-profit cigarette customers may tomorrow keep the nicotine habit but spend a twentieth as much on tobacco products by switching to a one-hitter.

  7. john / July 7, 2011 at 3:49 pm

    In Calif. not one dispensary is opperating legally. They are all violating State Law.

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