Federal Medical Marijuana ‘Clarification’ Another Disappointment

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Photo: Roger Goodman for Congress
Roger Goodman: “Sorry, DOJ. Please give it another try.”

​Last week’s Department of Justice memo, supposedly meant to “clarify” the DOJ’s position on medical marijuana, doesn’t reflect any real changes in policy from prior administrations.

This latest “clarification” was seemingly needed after a prior “clarification” in 2009 gave many the impression that the DOJ would not prosecute medical marijuana patients and providers in states that had authorized such programs.
That 2009 document, called the “Ogden Memo,” did not actually provide for a hard change in policy, but rather directed U.S. Attorneys to be careful in how they use their limited department resources, suggesting that prosecuting medical marijuana patients is not a good use of government funds.


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Photo: Weed Quotes
Deputy Atty. Gen. James Cole: “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”

​Now we have the “clarification,” the “Cole Memo” [PDF], in which Deputy Attorney General James Cole reiterates that, oh yeah, the Ogden Memo was never meant to be a change in policy, and that the Department is “committed to the enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act in all States.”
“Yet another disappointment!” Washington Congressional candidate Roger Goodman said of the Cole Memo Monday morning.
“I’ve just read carefully through the new Cole Memo from the DOJ,” Goodman told Toke of the Town. “It supposedly ‘clarifies’ federal policy on state-regulated medical marijuana, but if anything it leaves us more confused and uncertain (which is probably how folks at DOJ are feeling, too).”
“With the Ogden Memo in 2009 the Administration staked out new territory that gave some comfort to the drug policy reform community,” Goodman told us. “The latest statement from DOJ says federal policy has not changed — but the social and cultural change continues as public opinion sways in our favor.
“The situation on the ground is clearly straining federal policy,” Goodman said.
“If we can count on federal policy not changing, as the Cole Memo asserts, then any activity ‘unambiguously complying with state law’ should not be prosecuted, as the Ogden Memo originally stated,” Goodman said. “The increasing scope of state-sanctioned, state-regulated activity related to medical marijuana shouldn’t trigger any federal enforcement.
“Unfortunately, the disturbing raids here in Washington State and elsewhere prove otherwise,” Goodman told us. “Patients right now are feeling vulnerable and afraid because of this new specter of federal prosecutions.
“The original Ogden Memo and the new Cole Memo are political statements more than legal opinions,” Goodman said. “We must remember that marijuana is absolutely prohibited under federal law for any purpose whatsoever.
“Until recently this Administration had wisely implemented a selective enforcement policy more respectful to state laws and to public opinion,” Goodman told Toke of the Town. “We need more sensitive leadership like that.
“Let us call on the Administration to come out clearly in support of responsible state-regulated medical marijuana programs across the country — what’s best for public health and safety.
“Sorry, DOJ,” Goodman said. “Please give it another try.”
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