DOJ Memo: Medical Marijuana Still Illegal, Even Where It’s Legal

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A recent U.S. Department of Justice memo offers guidance for enforcing the Controlled Substances Act in States that have legalized marijuana for medical use, saying that cultivating and selling the drug anywhere, for any reason, is illegal — regardless of state law.

The U.S. Department of Justice is drawing fire over a memorandum it released last week, in which the DOJ essentially says State laws regarding the legalization of marijuana for medical purposes are irrelevant when it comes to the prosecution of growers, sellers and distributors of the drug.

Written by United States Deputy Attorney General James Cole, the June 29 memo purportedly clarifies an October 2009 memo issued by Deputy Attorney General David Ogden, regarding the enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) in States that have laws authorizing the use of medical marijuana.

The so-called “Ogden Memo” explained to Federal prosecutors that “prosecution of significant traffickers of illegal drugs, including marijuana, remains a core priority, but advised that it is likely not an efficient use of federal resources to focus enforcement efforts on individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses who use marijuana as part of a recommended treatment regimen consistent with applicable state law, or their caregivers,” according to Cole’s memo.

Cole clarifies that, for the purposes of the CSA, a “caregiver” is not “commercial operations cultivating, selling or distributing marijuana,” despite the fact the term is commonly applied to growers providing the drug to patients in States that have legalized the drug for medical purposes.

“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,” the memo reads.

The memo went on to read: “State laws or local ordinances are not a defense to civil or criminal enforcement of federal law with respect to such conduct, including enforcement of the CSA. Those who engage in transactions involving the proceeds of such activity may also be in violation of federal money laundering statutes and other federal financial laws.”

NOTE: The liberal news site Alternet contributed to this story. Its full coverage is available here.

 

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