U.S. Department of Justice memo appears to target commercial medical marijuana growers
By Summit Voice
SUMMIT COUNTY — Congressman Jared Polis, a Boulder Democrat, is sparring with the U.S. Department of Justice over the language of a June 29 memo from the federal agency that seems to target large-scale medical marijuana growers and dispensaries.
The memo is intended to clarify the federal government’s role in enforcing the prohibition on illegal drug use. The widespread legalization of medical cannabis has resulted in some confusion in a classic case of states’ rights versus federal law. Federal officials are obligated to enforce the controlled substances act, even as more and more states legalize medical use of marijuana.
In a related story, the Fort Collins Coloradoan reports that drug-related school expulsions have soared in the Poudre School District as medical marijuana use becomes more widespread.
In a previous memo, the Justice Department said it would continue to prioritize prosecution “of significant traffickers in illegal drugs,’ while indicating 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.”
In the June 29 follow-up memo, the DOJ adds this:
“The term “caregiver” as used in the memorandum meant just that: individuals providing care to individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses, not commercial operations cultivating, selling or distributing marijuana.
“The Department’s view of the efficient use of limited federal resources as articulated in the Ogden Memorandum has not changed. There has, however, been an increase in the scope of commercial cultivation, sale, distribution and use of marijuana for purported medical purposes. For example, within the past 12 months, several jurisdictions have considered or enacted legislation to authorize multiple large-scale, privately-operated industrial marijuana cultivation centers. Some of these planned facilities have revenue projections of the millions of dollars based on the plant cultivation of tens of thousands of cannabis plants.”
“The Justice Department’s announcement is insufficient because it fails to lift the threat of arrests and prosecutions from legal, state regulated, voter-endorsed medical marijuana businesses. Colorado has proven that medical marijuana can be successfully regulated and taxed, which helps patients suffering debilitating diseases and pain, while also increasing state revenues.
“While I am disappointed with the June 29 memo, it again makes clear that U.S. attorneys are afforded discretion when prioritizing their limited enforcement resources. It’s obvious to all that the Department’s limited tax dollars are better spent going after real criminals, such as Mexican drug lords, rather than well-regulated, state-legal business.
“The Department’s stance again makes the case for the passage of the Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act, which was authored by Congressman Barney Frank, and which I proudly cosponsor, but in the mean time they can do better than this memo and I encourage them to do so.”
A June 20 letter from Polis and Frank requesting that the Department clarify its enforcement approach to legal, state regulated medical marijuana businesses. The June 29 memo comes in response to requests from several states for additional direction on federal medical marijuana enforcement.
Polis is the author of the Small Business Banking Improvement Act, a bill that would ensure that legal, state-regulated medical marijuana businesses receive fair access to financial services.
Full text of DOJ memo:
Filed under: business, Colorado, economy, Summit County Colorado, Summit County news Tagged: | Barney Frank, Cannabis, Congressman Jared Polis, Drug Enforcement Administration, Jared Polis, Medical cannabis, medical marijuana, Summit County News, United States Department of Justice