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US Department of Justice Advises Federal Prosecutors Not to Prosecute Medical Marijuana Patients in Legal States

Picture of US Attorney General Eric Holder and a quote from the Oct. 19, 2009 memo.
Source: US Department of Justice website (accessed Oct. 19, 2009)

On Oct. 19, 2009 the US Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a memo to "provide clarification and guidance to federal prosecutors in States that have enacted laws authorizing the medical use of marijuana."

In an effort to make the most efficient use of limited resources, the DOJ announced that prosecutorial priorities should not target "individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana." Specifically, individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses who use medical marijuana and the caregivers who provide the medical marijuana in accordance with state law should not be the focus of federal prosecution.

The memo clarified that "prosecution of commercial enterprises that unlawfully market and sell marijuana for profit continues to be an enforcement priority." It is also explicitly stated that the memo "does not 'legalize' marijuana or provide a legal defense to a violation of federal law."

Read the Memorandum for Selected United States Attorneys written by Deputy Attorney David W. Ogden (3.2 MB)

Pro US DOJ New Policy Guideline

Con US DOJ New Policy Guideline

Bruce Mirken, Director of Communications for the Marijuana Policy Project (MPP), stated the following as reported by the New York Times in an Oct. 18, 2009 article titled "New Medical Marijuana Policy Issued," posted on nytimes.com:

"This is a major step forward. This change in policy moves the federal government dramatically toward respecting scientific and practical reality."

Oct. 18, 2009 - Bruce Mirken

Lamar Smith, JD, US Congressman (R-TX) and House Judiciary Committee Ranking Member, stated the following in an Oct. 19, 2009 announcement posted on his website lamarsmith.house.gov:

"The [Obama] Administration's new guidelines... fly in the face of Supreme Court precedent and undermine federal laws that prohibit the distribution and use of marijuana...

By directing federal law enforcement officers to ignore federal drug laws, the Administration is tacitly condoning the use of marijuana in the US."

Oct. 19, 2009 - Lamar Smith, JD

Related Links:
  1. 13 Legal Medical Marijuana States
  2. Does a state’s medical marijuana laws put that state in violation of federal drug law?
  3. US Attorney General Says Raids on Medical Marijuana Clinics Will Not Continue
  4. Biography of US Attorney General Eric H. Holder
  5. Biography of US President Barack Obama