Tom Diaz

NEW U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE MEDICAL MARIJUANA GUIDELINES–A FIG LEAF FOR US ATTORNEYS?

In bad manners, Crime, Drugs, Obama, politics on October 19, 2009 at 7:16 pm
Innocence Lost: New Guidelines May Give U.S. Attorneys a Fig Leaf to Stay Out of the Way of Sate Medical Marijuana Experimentation

Innocence Lost: New Guidelines May Give U.S. Attorneys a Fig Leaf to Stay Out of the Way of State "Medical Marijuana" Experimentation

Posted below is the full text of the new DOJ medical marijuana guidelines.

Don’t toke up yet. There is a lot less than meets the eye here.

Don't toke up yet, dude!

Don't toke up yet, dude!

The new guidelines demand “clear and unambiguous compliance” with state law. There is lots of disagreement even within California law enforcement, for example, about exactly what the California law allows and does not allow, so strict compliance is going to be in the eye of the beholder.

Perhaps the ultimate intention of this document is to give the US Attorneys a fig leaf so they can stay out of the way of state experimentation without either endorsing the medical marijuana system or ignoring rampant criminality (which many say has infested the California program already)?

THE NEW GUIDELINES

October 19,2009

MEMORANDUM FOR SELECTED UNITED STATES ATTORNEYS

FROM: David W. Ogden, Deputy Attorney General

SUBJECT: Investigations and Prosecutions in States Authorizing the Medical Use of Marijuana

This memorandum provides clarification and guidance to federal prosecutors in States that have enacted laws authorizing the medical use of marijuana. These laws vary in their substantive provisions and in the extent of state regulatory oversight, both among the enacting States and among local jurisdictions within those States. Rather than developing different guidelines for every possible variant of state and local law, this memorandum provides uniform guidance to focus federal investigations and prosecutions in these States on core federal enforcement priorities.

The Department of Justice is committed to the enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act in all States. Congress has determined that marijuana is a dangerous drug, and the illegal distribution and sale of marijuana is a serious crime and provides a significant source of revenue to large-scale criminal enterprises, gangs, and cartels. One timely example underscores the importance of our efforts to prosecute significant marijuana traffickers: marijuana distribution in the United States remains the single largest source of revenue for the Mexican cartels.

The Department is also committed to making efficient and rational use of its limited investigative and prosecutorial resources. In general, United States Attorneys are vested with “plenary authority with regard to federal criminal matters” within their districts. USAM 9-2.001. In exercising this authority, United States Attorneys are “invested by statute and delegation from the Attorney General with the broadest discretion in the exercise of such authority.” Id. This authority should, of course, be exercised consistent with Department priorities and guidance.

The prosecution of significant traffickers of illegal drugs, including marijuana, and the disruption of illegal drug manufacturing and trafficking networks continues to be a core priority in the Department’s efforts against narcotics and dangerous drugs, and the Department’s investigative and prosecutorial resources should be directed towards these objectives. As a general matter, pursuit of these priorities should not focus federal resources in your States on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana. For example, prosecution of individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses who use marijuana as part of a recommended treatment regimen consistent with applicable state law, or those caregivers in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state law who provide such individuals with marijuana, is unlikely to be an efficient use of limited federal resources. On the other hand, prosecution of commercial enterprises that unlawfully market and sell marijuana for profit continues to be an enforcement priority of the Department. To be sure, claims of compliance with state or local law may mask operations inconsistent with the terms, conditions, or purposes of those laws, and federal law enforcement should not be deterred by such assertions when otherwise pursuing the Department’s core enforcement priorities.

Typically, when any of the following characteristics is present, the conduct will not be in clear and unambiguous compliance with applicable state law and may indicate illegal drug trafficking activity of potential federal interest:

* unlawful possession or unlawful use of firearms;

* violence;

* sales to minors;

* financial and marketing activities inconsistent with the terms, conditions, or purposes of state law, including evidence of money laundering activity and/or financial gains or excessive amounts of cash inconsistent with purported compliance with state or local law;

* amounts of marijuana inconsistent with purported compliance with state or local law;

* illegal possession or sale of other controlled substances; or

* ties to other criminal enterprises.

Of course, no State can authorize violations of federal law, and the list of factors above is not intended to describe exhaustively when a federal prosecution may be warranted. Accordingly, in prosecutions under the Controlled Substances Act, federal prosecutors are not expected to charge, prove, or otherwise establish any state law violations. Indeed, this memorandum does not alter in any way the Department’s authority to enforce federal law, including laws prohibiting the manufacture, production, distribution, possession, or use of marijuana on federal property. This guidance regarding resource allocation does not “legalize” marijuana or provide a legal defense to a violation of federal law, nor is it intended to create any privileges, benefits, or rights, substantive or procedural, enforceable by any individual, party or witness in any administrative, civil, or criminal matter. Nor does clear and unambiguous compliance with state law or the absence of one or all of the above factors create a legal defense to a violation of the Controlled Substances Act. Rather, this memorandum is intended solely as a guide to the exercise of investigative and prosecutorial discretion.

Finally, nothing herein precludes investigation or prosecution where there is a reasonable basis to believe that compliance with state law is being invoked as a pretext for the production or distribution of marijuana for purposes not authorized by state law. Nor does this guidance preclude investigation or prosecution, even when there is clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state law, in particular circumstances where investigation or prosecution otherwise serves important federal interests.

Your offices should continue to review marijuana cases for prosecution on a case-by-case basis, consistent with the guidance on resource allocation and federal priorities set forth herein, the consideration of requests for federal assistance from state and local law enforcement authorities, and the Principles of Federal Prosecution.

cc: All United States Attorneys

Lanny A. Breuer

Assistant Attorney General Criminal Division

B. Todd Jones

United States Attorney

District of Minnesota

Chair, Attorney General’s Advisory Committee

Michele M. Leonhart

Acting Administrator

Drug Enforcement Administration

H. Marshall Jarrett

Director

Executive Office for United States Attorneys

Kevin L. Perkins

Assistant Director

Criminal Investigative Division

Federal Bureau of Investigation

Nuanced Memo Addresses Use of  "Prosecutorial Resources" -- Neither Endorsing Nor Condemning So-Called "Medical Marijuana" Schemes

Nuanced Memo Addresses Use of "Prosecutorial Resources" -- Neither Endorsing Nor Condemning So-Called "Medical Marijuana" Schemes

  1. So has anything really changed? The illegal status of Marijuana is one of the most absurd laws. Any who can read can compare marijuana statistics against alcohol statistics and see which is more destructive. Either way what right does the federal gov have to dictate moral values?

  2. I’m content that I discovered this article. It fills in a few of the blanks that I had in my thoughts prior to reading it!

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