Obama Administration Issues New Marijuana Policy


WASHINGTON – The Justice Department announced on Monday their decision to forgo sanctioning suppliers of medical marijuana in states where the practice of selling the drug is legal.

Justice officials told The Associated Press that the policy outlines rules for prosecutors, who will be told that it is not a good use of their time to arrest people who use or provide medical marijuana when those people are in accordance with state law. Officers are still encouraged to go after those who violate these laws, or who are using their service to cover up for other crimes.

The new policy is a turnaround from the Bush administration’s policy, which stated intent to follow federal law and pursue medical marijuana facilities no matter what the state law was pertaining to the practice. Currently, 14 states allow the sale and/or use of medical marijuana, notably California, which has been at the center of this controversy for years.

The new three-page memo was released to federal prosecutors in the 14 states with medical marijuana laws, as well as top FBI and Drug Enforcement officials, on Monday. Unnamed officials speaking on a condition of anonymity told reporters that the memo will emphasize to prosecutors their wide discretion in choosing cases to pursue, while making clear that those in accordance with state laws should not be punished.

“This change in policy moves the federal government dramatically toward respecting scientific and practical reality,” said Bruce Mirken, communications director for the Marijuana Policy Project.

The move has excited those in favor of marijuana policy reform, and on the other side, has angered those who have been fought endlessly for the War on Drugs. The National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws released a statement about the DEA memo, saying it is a “major departure in the so-called war on drugs” and “a major victory for citizens who support cannabis law reform.”

Still, Steve Cooley, a county prosecutor in Los Angeles, still intends to target medical marijuana facilities in his city despite the DEA memo. In Los Angeles alone, there are an estimated 800 medical marijuana facilities – up from only four in 2005 – more than any other city in the nation.

Cooley plans to target stores who are profiting and selling to people who don’t qualify for medicinal marijuana.

“All those who are operating illegally, our advice to them is to shut down voluntarily and they won’t be subject to prosecution,” Cooley told The Associated Press on Wednesday.


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