Press Releases

US DOJ Won’t Challenge States on Marijuana Legalization ‘At This Time’

Press release from the U.S. Department of Justice; August 29, 2013:

Today, the U.S. Department of Justice announced an update to its federal marijuana enforcement policy in light of recent state ballot initiatives that legalize, under state law, the possession of small amounts of marijuana and provide for the regulation of marijuana production, processing, and sale.

In a new memorandum outlining the policy, the Department makes clear that marijuana remains an illegal drug under the Controlled Substances Act and that federal prosecutors will continue to aggressively enforce this statute. To this end, the Department identifies eight (8) enforcement areas that federal prosecutors should prioritize. These are the same enforcement priorities that have traditionally driven the Department’s efforts in this area.

Outside of these enforcement priorities, however, the federal government has traditionally relied on state and local authorizes to address marijuana activity through enforcement of their own narcotics laws. This guidance continues that policy.

For states such as Colorado and Washington that have enacted laws to authorize the production, distribution and possession of marijuana, the Department expects these states to establish strict regulatory schemes that protect the eight federal interests identified in the Department’s guidance. These schemes must be tough in practice, not just on paper, and include strong, state-based enforcement efforts, backed by adequate funding. Based on assurances that those states will impose an appropriately strict regulatory system, the Department has informed the governors of both states that it is deferring its right to challenge their legalization laws at this time. But if any of the stated harms do materialize—either despite a strict regulatory scheme or because of the lack of one—federal prosecutors will act aggressively to bring individual prosecutions focused on federal enforcement priorities and the Department may challenge the regulatory scheme themselves in these states.

A copy of the memorandum, sent to all United States Attorneys by Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole, is available below.

Health Care News NewsTracker

Not So Much ‘Knee-Jerk Hostility’ Toward Medical Marijuana This Year, Proponents Say

A state House of Representatives legislative panel took a first step Tuesday toward allowing Tennessee patients suffering serious health ailments to legally use medical marijuana with a doctor’s permission.

The Health and Human Services subcommittee OK’d the “Safe Access to Medical Cannabis Act” on a voice vote, advancing the measure to the full committee — meaning it still has a long way to go before becoming law.

Nevertheless, advocates of marijuana as medicine for treating chronic pain or helping alleviate debilitating disease symptoms or disease-treatment side effects say they’re hopeful politicians in the Tennessee Statehouse are willing to at least give the issue a more sympathetic hearing than in the past.

“What we didn’t get today was the sort of knee-jerk hostility or dismissing of the concept,” said Bernie Ellis, a long-time medical marijuana activist. “I think we are really progressing in elevating the dialogue on this bill, and believe me, in our shoes, any movement forward is positive movement.”

Legislation legalizing marijuana for medical use typically burns out in committee, although in 2010, a full committee agreed to a study of the issue.

Rep. Jeanne Richardson, a Memphis Democrat, is sponsoring the bill, HB294, in the House and plans to try to move it through the Health and Human Resources committee. The measure hasn’t budged in the Senate.

Rep. Joey Hensely, a physician, told the committee he was concerned doctors won’t know how to prescribe medicinal marijuana.

“Being a provider, we’re not really trained to prescribe cannabis, and don’t really know what it does, how much people need, how much they need for what condition, and there’s a lot of different conditions in this amendment and even a catch-all of chronic pain and any other condition that a provider thinks somebody needs it for,” said Hensely, R-Hohenwald. “Anything that could help patients is something that most providers would want to do, but this has so many question marks that I just can’t support it like it is.”