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October 19, 2009

"Attorney General Announces Formal Medical Marijuana Guidelines"

Pot picture The title of this post is the headline of this official press release from the US. Department of Justice.  Here are the highlights (heh, heh, dude, heh, heh, get it.... highlights!):

Attorney General Eric Holder today announced formal guidelines for federal prosecutors in states that have enacted laws authorizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes.  The guidelines make clear that the focus of federal resources should not be on individuals whose actions are in compliance with existing state laws, while underscoring that the Department will continue to prosecute people whose claims of compliance with state and local law conceal operations inconsistent with the terms, conditions, or purposes of those laws.

"It will not be a priority to use federal resources to prosecute patients with serious illnesses or their caregivers who are complying with state laws on medical marijuana, but we will not tolerate drug traffickers who hide behind claims of compliance with state law to mask activities that are clearly illegal," Holder said.  "This balanced policy formalizes a sensible approach that the Department has been following since January: effectively focus our resources on serious drug traffickers while taking into account state and local laws."

The guidelines set forth examples of conduct that would show when individuals are not in clear and unambiguous compliance with applicable state law and may indicate illegal drug trafficking activity of potential federal interest, including unlawful use of firearms, violence, sales to minors, money laundering, amounts of marijuana inconsistent with purported compliance with state or local law, marketing or excessive financial gains similarly inconsistent with state or local law, illegal possession or sale of other controlled substances, and ties to criminal enterprises.

Fourteen states have enacted laws in some form addressing the use of marijuana for medical purposes.  A copy of the guidelines, in a memo from Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden to United States Attorneys, can be found here.

ABC News has on-line this new story which reflects some of the early press coverage; the piece is headlined "Medical Marijuana Proponents Breathe Easier Under New Guidelines." 

There are, of course, lots of serious and important things to say about these new DOJ guidelines, but to begin let's have some run imagining alternative headlines for the DOJ press release or media coverage of this story.  I'll start with a few silly possibilities:  "Dude, Federalism Is Such A Trip!" or "New Health Care Reform Development for Grateful Dead Fans" or "Massive Breakout of Glaucoma Predicted in 14 States"

October 19, 2009 at 01:45 PM | Permalink


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"Of course, no State can authorize violations of federal law"

But, of course ...

Posted by: . | Oct 19, 2009 1:59:30 PM

Frito Lay execs hail new guidelines!

Posted by: mike | Oct 19, 2009 2:09:41 PM

Credit where credit is due--they really threaded the needle.

Posted by: federalist | Oct 19, 2009 3:08:34 PM

How about this one.

"DOJ smokes but doesn't inhale with new marijuana regulations."

Posted by: Daniel | Oct 19, 2009 3:33:29 PM

Hey Doug, thanks for calling attention to this issue. I just wanted to point out that all that "hey-dude" stuff really undercuts your larger point, namely that criminalization of marijuana use -- something that all us white bourgeoise pot-smokers laugh at -- is a very serious criminal justice issue. Hundreds of thousands of mostly black and brown people get arrested for pot possession every year. Many of them go to jail for it. It's funny if you're rich and white and do it recreationally. Less funny if you use it as medicine. Less funny still if you're one of the 100,000 who get popped for it.

Posted by: dm | Oct 19, 2009 4:27:38 PM

You are, of course, 100% right, dm. But it is so rare I get to have fun on this blog in light of the subject matter, I just could not resist.

Posted by: Doug B. | Oct 19, 2009 5:38:39 PM

One small step for man...one giant leap for mankind.

Posted by: Chrystal K. | Oct 19, 2009 6:27:58 PM

DM: There should be zero tolerance for PC. Prof. Berman may adhere to that stuff because of his academic situation.

Get out of my country and take all the cry baby, entitled minorities with you. Anybody that pulls that should be answered with rotten food to the face, the malformed one with the hare lip.

You need to apologize to Prof. Berman. I am extremely upset.

Posted by: Supremacy Claus | Oct 19, 2009 9:14:52 PM

From a 1965 DOJ press release:

"Attorney General Imperial Klud announced today that it will not be a priority to use federal resources to prosecute bus companies that require black people to sit in the back, in compliance with state laws on maintaining racial purity. At the same time, General Klud said that the Department would not tolerate bigots who hide behind claims of compliance with state law to mask activities that are clearly illegal."

How odd that our Attorney General apparently does not understand that, under the case his own Department brought only a few years ago (Gonzales v. Raich), marijuana use IS clearly illegal under the only law the AG is charged with enforcing, to wit, federal law.

This new deference to "states rights" simply turns its back on the Supremacy Clause and the Raich ruling. It fully accommodates, however, the AG's pro-pot constituencies, particularly the fat cat contributors in California.

Well, guys, it IS politics, and money does talk.

Posted by: Bill Otis | Oct 20, 2009 3:40:20 PM

I think this is good news, now they can concentrate on major drug problems.

Posted by: Amy | Oct 20, 2009 5:52:23 PM

You are, of course, 100% right, dm. But it is so rare I get to have fun on this blog in light of the subject matter, I just could not resist. Thanks for this post. I have read the entire article. it is really a great and so informative. thanks guys...
find attorney

Posted by: find attorney | Nov 18, 2009 10:31:29 PM

Thanks for the great writeup and more importantly your ABC link! Their story was exactly what I was looking for a blog post!

Posted by: Medical Marijuana | Mar 10, 2010 2:27:03 AM

It`s good news. Yu 100 right. Thanks

Posted by: Online pharmacy US | Mar 24, 2010 6:02:43 PM

I think this is good news, now they can concentrate on major drug problems.

Posted by: freeman | Jun 18, 2010 6:48:41 PM

Can these laws make neccessary changes.Question is will they be effective i real or simply look effective on paper.



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Posted by: Erik champ | Jun 24, 2010 4:36:40 PM

These laws enhances in providing good service and prevent misuse of this service.Like say drug traffickers will be punished.Still we have to study further in which ways these laws impact.What are the have advantages and disadvantages.



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