It’s official – under Barack Obama, the Department of Justice will not restrain federal prosecutors targeting medical marijuana providers.
Any lingering hopes that the new Administration would implement change in this area were blasted April 17 when U.S. Attorney Thomas O’Brien forwarded to District Judge George Wu a letter from DOJ clarifying ObamAdmin policy.
The clarification had been requested by Judge Wu. On March 23, responding to widespread media reports of a “policy change” under Obama, Wu had postponed the sentencing of Charles Lynch, 46, a Morro Bay dispensary operator, until the U.S. Attorney could provide a written statement elucidating the present policy.
The definitive letter, signed by H. Marshall Jarrrett, director of the office that oversees all U.S. Attorneys, is addressed to O’Brien.
“In response to your request, the Office of the Deputy Attorney General reviewed the facts of this case to determine whether the prosecution of Mr. Lynch comports with the Department of Justice’s policies with respect to marijuana prosecutions. Based on the facts of this case, the Office of the Deputy Attorney General concurs with your office that the investigation, prosecution, and conviction of Mr. Lynch are entirely consistent with Department policies as well as public statements made by the Attorney General. Accordingly, you should seek to proceed with the sentencing recommendations which your office has filed with the court.”
Attorney General Holder had proclaimed that DOJ would henceforth approve prosectuion only of those medical marijuana providers who violate state law as well as federal law. (Federal prosecutors and the DEA claim that this has been their approach all along.) Pro-cannabis activists contend that Lynch ran an exemplary operation in Morro Bay. The letter from Deputy AG Jarrett begs the question: in what way did Lynch’s dispensary violate state law? No evidence of profiteering by Lynch had been introduced during his trial. Nevertheless, ObamAdmin policy is now unambiguous: California dispensaries are subject to DEA raids, and their operators are subject to prosecution. Gone is the hope of retroactive leniency for Tom Kikuchi, Stephanie Landa, Dustin Costa, and dozens more growers and dispensary operators who are in prison or facing prison terms.
The few that I’ve met are intelligent, skilled, decent people who, in a rational society, would be contributing to the welfare of their families and communities.
Judge Wu will sentence Charles Lynch April 23 at 10:30 a.m. in his Los Angeles courtroom. Supporters will be out in force. Ronnie Naulls is one of those in the pipeline to prison whose fate will be affected by Jarrett’s letter. He emails, “This is very upsetting news. We all have to join together and go to court to support Charles. Lord knows I would be there in a heartbeat but because of my house arrest I will be there in spirit.”
Fred Gardner edits O’Shaughnessy’s, the Journal of Cannabis in Clinical Practice. He can be reached at [email protected]
– Article from CounterPunch on April 21, 2009.