Individuals legally using or supplying medical marijuana under state law should not be prosecuted under federal drug laws, the Obama administration has ordered.
The Los Angeles Times reported Oct. 19 that the U.S. Justice Department has issued a new directive that clarifies earlier statements by Attorney General Eric Holder, who indicated that federal prosecutors and drug agents had more pressing priorities than prosecuting medical-marijuana patients and suppliers.
Obama expressed support for medical marijuana as a candidate for president and promised to end federal raids on medical-marijuana dispensaries. However, some raids continued to take place even after he took office.
The federal government will continue to target marijuana suppliers whose operations violate state laws, according to the new guidelines.
“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,” said Holder. “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.”
“This is a huge victory for medical-marijuana patients,” said Steph Sherer, executive director of the medical-marijuana group Americans for Safe Access. “This indicates that President Obama intends to keep his promise — and represents a significant departure from the policies of the Bush administration.’’
Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington currently have medical-marijuana laws on the books.