Marijuana and Cannabis News
|Activists seek clarification from Attorney General Eric Holder on what state are local laws are allegedly being violated by dispensary operators|
U.S. Reps. Nadler and Cohen are seeking clarification from the Attorney General about how DOJ determines whether state laws are violated
State-federal medical cannabis conflict intensifies prior to a fundraising visit to Oakland by President Obama on July 23
The National Cannabis Industry Association (NCIA) is awaiting answers from United States Attorney General Eric Holder related to sworn testimony he provided to the House Judiciary Committee on June 7. On that day, he said that the Department of Justice (DOJ) limits its medical cannabis "enforcement efforts to those individuals [or] organizations that are acting out of conformity with State laws, or, in the case of instances in Colorado, where distribution centers were placed within close proximity to schools."
Both NCIA and U.S. Reps. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) were interested in further information about this statement.
|Talking Points Memo|
|Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), along with Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.) on June 27 submitted written follow-up questions to Attorney General Holder|
On June 27, Reps. Nadler and Cohen submitted follow-up written questions to Attorney General Holder. These questions are provided in full below. Specifically, with respect to "each enforcement action DOJ has taken against persons or entities engaged in cultivating or selling medical marijuana," they asked Atty. Gen. Holder to "provide information about the case, including the specific federal, state and/or local laws, regulations, and/or policies that allegedly were being violated."
They are also seeking a commitment from Holder to clarify to the public what state and local laws are allegedly being violated by individuals targeted in the future by DOJ.
"It is time for the Obama administration to be honest with medical cannabis patients and their providers," said Aaron Smith, NCIA's executive director. "We are all tired of the mixed - and seemingly deceptive - messages from the Department of Justice.
"If the Attorney General testified that his department is only targeting individuals who have violated state and local law, then the DEA or U.S. attorneys should have at their fingertips the specific state and local laws that were violated in each case," Smith said. "If they do not, then the Attorney General's testimony is baseless.
|Aaron Smith, National Cannabis Industry Association: "It is time for the Obama administration to be honest with medical cannabis patients and their providers"|
"Moreover, targeting individuals acting in compliance with state and local law violates the Department's 2009 Ogden memo, which Mr. Holder said was still in effect in sworn testimony in December 2011," Smith pointed out.
"Obama's crackdown on medical marijuana is costing thousands of jobs and millions of dollars in tax revenues while abetting criminal drug dealers," said Dale Gieringer, director of California NORML. "If the administration is truly concerned about fixing the nation's health care system, it needs to allow Americans legal access to medical cannabis."
While these Members of Congress await a response from Attorney General Holder, the Department of Justice has chosen to ramp up the state-federal conflict to new heights. Following its April raid of the widely respected Oaksterdam University, the Department has now delivered a court order to the nationally known and locally-supported Harborside Health Center, indicating that it is being targeted by the federal government for closure.
The forfeiture action is against the "third-party" property owner, Real Property and Improvements. Harborside rents its facilities from Real Property.
Notably, the court order allegedly cites a violation of federal - not state or local - law. Actions such as these have outraged local officials.
"State law allows distribution of medical cannabis and the city of Oakland has developed a system to assure such distribution occurs according to state law in a fair and orderly process," said Nancy Nadel, member of the Oakland City Council and vice mayor of the city. "It is most unjust to our citizen patients and distributors who have followed local guidelines to be harassed and treated as criminals by federal officials."
NCIA is calling on the Department of Justice to reverse its actions against Harborside.
|Harborside Health Center|
|Steve DeAngelo, executive director of Harborside Health Center: "Harborside has nothing to hide or be ashamed of"|
"We are appalled that the federal government wants to drive tens of thousands of patients to the streets to find their medicine," Smith said. "Possibly no dispensary in the nation has been more open about its activities than Harborside. And it has strong support from local officials who understand state law.
"The Obama administration needs to admit that this action is entirely unjustified, acknowledge that it is inconsistent with its policy of not targeting individuals and organizations acting in compliance with state law, and allow Harborside to continue operating," Smith said.
"Harborside has nothing to hide or be ashamed of," Harborside Executive Director Steve DeAngelo said. "We will contest the DOJ action openly and in public, and through all legal means at our disposal.
"We look forward to our day in court, and are confident that justice is on our side," DeAngelo said. Harborside maintains that it has complied with all local and state laws and that it was not within 1,000 feet of a school, another rationale the Justice Department is using to target dispensaries even though state law is set at 600 feet.
"The claim by the Obama Administration that it's not undermining the laws of medical marijuana states like California is becoming less and less tenable," said Don Duncan, California director of Americans for Safe Access, a medical marijuana advocacy group. "The Attorney General and the President must be held accountable for actions by their U.S. Attorneys that are harming untold numbers of patients."
The Obama administration's defiant and unilateral actions against state-sanctioned providers have produced additional negative consequences. Earlier this week, a government-transparency activist posted documents obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request, showing that the DEA provided the Oakland Police Department no notice before conducting multiple raids with approximately 100 agents. This stretched the OPD thin on a day when seven people were killed at a shooting elsewhere in the city.
The timing of the Harborside action by the Obama administration could prove to be quite interesting. On July 23, President Obama will be traveling to Oakland for a fundraising event. Protests are planned.
Written Questions from Representative Jerrold Nadler and Representative Steve Cohen to Attorney General Eric Holder
In response to a question asked of you regarding the investigation and prosecution of persons by the Department of Justice (DOJ) for actions relating to medical marijuana, you said the DOJ limits its "enforcement efforts to those individuals [or] organizations that are acting out of conformity with State laws, or, in the case of instances in Colorado, where distribution centers were placed within close proximity to schools."
1. For each enforcement action DOJ has taken against persons or entities engaged in cultivating or selling medical marijuana in any jurisdiction in which medical marijuana is legal during your service as Attorney General, please provide information about the case, including the specific federal, state and/or local laws, regulations, and/or local law enforcement entity.
2. Besides the instances you mentioned in your answer in Colorado, have any DOJ personnel cited any federal law or section of the federal code, such as 21 U.S.C. 860 (known as the Drug-Free School Zones Act) as a reason in communications with any persons or entities engaged in cultivating or selling medical marijuana in any jurisdiction in which medical marijuana is legal during your service as Attorney General that the business should or must close or otherwise cease doing business? If the answer is yes, please detail each instance. How do such actions comport with your statement that enforcement actions only have occurred when persons or entities were acting out of conformity with state law? Why does DOJ believe 21 U.S.C. 860 is relevant to the authority of a medical marijuana business to operate when that provision only provides for enhanced penalties for violations of federal drug laws occurring too close to schools or other places children are likely to be?
3. With respect to actions you mentioned in your answer in Colorado, taking enforcement actions against medical marijuana entities allegedly too close to proximity to schools, why in each action did DOJ decide to enforce federal law when Colorado and the relevant localities, which had legalized medical marijuana, had chosen to allow these entities to operate legally?
4. For each future enforcement action by DOJ against persons or entities engaged in cultivating or selling medical marijuana in any jurisdiction in which medical marijuana is legal during your service as Attorney General, will you commit to making it clear to the public and Members of Congress both which specific federal, state and/or local laws, regulations and/or policies are allegedly being violated and why DOJ took action in the place of or instead of the applicable state and/or local law enforcement entity? Why or why not?