Obama Issues New Medical Marijuana Policy

The Obama administration will not seek to arrest medical marijuana users and suppliers as long as they conform to state laws, under new policy guidelines to be sent to federal prosecutors Monday.

Two Justice Department officials described the new policy to The Associated Press, saying prosecutors will be told it is not a good use of their time to arrest people who use or provide medical marijuana in strict compliance with state laws.

The new policy is a significant departure from the Bush administration, which insisted it would continue to enforce federal anti-pot laws regardless of state codes.

Fourteen states allow some use of marijuana for medical purposes: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

California is unique among those for the presence of dispensaries — businesses that sell marijuana and even advertise their services.

Attorney General Eric Holder said in March that he wanted federal law enforcement officials to pursue those who violate both federal and state law, but it has not been clear how that goal would be put into practice.

A 3-page memo spelling out the policy is expected to be sent Monday to federal prosecutors in the 14 states, and also to top officials at the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration.

The memo, the officials said, emphasizes that prosecutors have wide discretion in choosing which cases to pursue, and says it is not a good use of federal manpower to prosecute those who are without a doubt in compliance with state law.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the legal guidance before it is issued.

At the same time, the officials said, the government will still prosecute those who use medical marijuana as a cover for other illegal activity. The memo particularly warns that some suspects may hide old-fashioned drug dealing or other crimes behind a medical marijuana business.

In particular, the memo urges prosecutors to pursue marijuana cases which involve violence, the illegal use of firearms, selling pot to minors, money laundering or other crimes.

And while the policy memo describes a change in priorities away from prosecuting medical marijuana cases, it does not rule out the possibility that the federal government could still prosecute someone whose activities are allowed under state law.

The memo, officials said, is designed to give a sense of prosecutorial priorities to U.S. Attorneys in the states that allow medical marijuana. It notes that pot sales in the United States are the largest source of money for violent Mexican drug cartels, but adds that federal law enforcement agencies have limited resources.

Medical marijuana advocates have been anxious to see exactly how the administration would implement candidate Barack Obama’s repeated promises to change the policy in situations in which state laws allow the use of medical marijuana.

Shortly after Obama took office, DEA agents raided four dispensaries in Los Angeles, prompting confusion about the government’s plans.

– Article from the Associated Press.



  1. Andrew on

    “It notes that pot sales in the United States are the largest source of money for violent Mexican drug cartels…”

    I don’t know about you guys, but the herb I’m accustomed to doesn’t help that group. My money goes to support either Canadians, Californians, and occasionally Coloradans. Is that the right term for folks from Colorado? I don’t fuck with schwag. Might as well be smoking extra cigarettes if you want that crap.

  2. Anonymous on

    “why not vote for someone who is willing to admit that it needs to be legalized. Rather than voting for someone who doesn’t have “legalize” in their vocabulary.”- because all you’ll end up doing is splitting the liberal vote allowing the republicans (who usually nominate a conservative)back into office. Then where will we be? With luck, Bush lite, worst case, Bush on steroids.

  3. one12alpha on

    He doesn’t deserve one. This “memo” is full of holes. It doesn’t require federal prosecutors to prove a violation of state law. It doesn’t give patients, providers, and dispensaries any defense in federal prosecution. It is to little to late for Obama on this issue.

    when Obama’s second term comes up, instead of hoping he’ll do something different, why not vote for someone who is willing to admit that it needs to be legalized. Rather than voting for someone who doesn’t have “legalize” in their vocabulary.


  4. Anonymous on

    Lucy holding the football again Charlie Brown? lol!

  5. Anonymous 421 on

    Usually politicians won’t touch this issue with a ten foot pole. The fact that the Obama administration is making this a front page declaration still says something. I think we will see some incredible measures in his second term when he has less to lose. lets hope anyways.

  6. Anonymous on

    Magicians tricks only, One hand Distracts while the other Obscures.

    Aaagh, Obama…How many times do we need to be fooled in order to believe that NOW ‘this time, you won´t fool us anylonger?

  7. Dan-o on

    Health care reform is the primary focus of the administration at the moment. The timing of this decision is convenient. Did you notice those “tea parties” and raucus townhall meetings over health care? Perhaps this decision is an attempt to grab votes from the millions of cannabis users in the US. Let’s be honest, it’s politics in one way or another…wasting tax dollars has nothing to do with it.

  8. patient on

    whos to say what form of use is medicinal and which is recreational? why does someone with aids get to have it when someone who just likes to calm down with some after a hard day at work cant? if we’re going to be compassionate we should treat all equally.

  9. Dan-o on

    I’ll wait to get my hopes up untill I am sure this isn’t a government whack-a-mole scheme.

  10. joe on

    No they will carry on just as before The DEA are war fools and they will keep their foolish war going because they are fools and fools do not know the meaning of freedom of choice
    For the DEA are Dick head on wheels that love to dictate there way of life. Freedom does not exist in the USA or Canada.
    You can not even grow hemp because it looks like marijuana.
    Watch out Robin Hood flower it looks a lot like cocaine