DoJ orders DEA to target state-legal marijuana shops

The Department of Justice sent out a memo Wednesday instructing the head of the Drug Enforcement Administration and leading officials in the U.S. Attorneys Office to treat medical marijuana shops as top priorities for prosecutors and drug investigators.

“Persons who are in the business of cultivating, selling or distributing marijuana, and those who knowingly facilitate such activities, are in violation of the Controlled Substances Act, regardless of state law,” the memo reads. “Consistent with resource constraints and the discretion you may exercise in your district, such persons are subject to federal enforcement action, including potential prosecution. State laws or local ordinances are not a defense to civil or criminal enforcement of federal law with respect to such conduct, including enforcement of the CSA.”

This is, of course, a reversal from the 2009 Ogden Memo and more importantly a reversal from Obama’s campaign promises. So, you folks in areas where Marijuana dispensaries are legal can expect them to disappear shortly…

I’m absolutely fascinated by this. The Feds will win and people should stand up for their rights. They won’t though and that’s the apathy of our country right now. States rights indeed.

Wow, way to fail, government.

This is really interesting, and the timing is kind of weird.

Bloomburg Article, NBC Article.

Essentially, the DoJ is specifically calling out large-scale cultivators and dispensaries. The new memo doesn’t literally contradict the Ogden Memo, which only really gave a pass to the patients, not the suppliers. But it does contradict the spirit.

It’s a really interesting question. On one hand, you have a potential multi-$billion industry that is in the process of organizing itself to support the growing number of states that effectively legalize marijuana in defiance of Federal law – and I’d argue that a properly-regulated marijuana industry could create many thousands of jobs at a time when we could really use them. On the other hand, you have a fundamental States’-rights issue here: can a State make a law that says “this Federal law doesn’t apply here”?

What bugs me about this is why now? Is this an Obama administration tactic to get the issue in front of the public before the election season? I could see where he’d want to put Romney or Backmann in the position to tell the various State governments that they have to come to heel before the might of Big Government because “MJ is destroying our country!” Or is this a pro-GOP group in the DoJ that wants to embarrass both the Administration and the Democrats in NY?

The memo actually reads:

Congress has determined that marijuana is a dangerous drug and that the illegal distribution and sale of marijuana is a serious crime that provides a significant source of revenue to large scale criminal enterprises, gangs, and cartels.

If sane, informed people had written the memo, it would read:

Scientific evidence has determined that marijuana prohibition is a dangerous policy that promotes crime, erodes civil liberties, and provides a significant source of revenue to large scale criminal enterprises, gangs, and cartels.

Don’t worry, I’m sure the state’s rights advocates are just ready to pounce in their support of dispensaries.


Yeah, it’s a bit surreal to go after quasi-legitimate cannabis-growers on the rather preposterous grounds that they “[provide] a significant source of revenue to large scale criminal enterprises, gangs, and cartels.” Precisely those gangs and cartels will be popping champagne corks at the news that their grey-legal competition is being put out of business.

Yeah, the Constitution says No on that one.

The legal question is more likely going to be around the Commerce Clause and whether this type of stuff can be regulated under Interstate Commerce. Edit: Oh and looking it up, is also mostly decided as “Yes they can” under Gonzales v. Raich

Yes, the commerce clause is kind of bullshit though… since it’s been extended to the point where the government can apparently make laws regarding anything they want under that clause, which means that the constitution’s specifically giving everything not explicitly stated in the constitution to the states would be meaningless, if they really intended the commerce clause to be as far reaching as it has been taken to mean.

…almost as though the nature of the small c constitution had fundamentally changed during the 19th century. You know, like if Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln had existed. That’d be crazy.

I have no doubt whatsoever that the federal government has the right to enforce federal laws, or that this is an applicable area for federal law to apply. I just question the wisdom of kicking a sleeping dog in an arena in which the congress has, through inaction, allowed a situation to exist in which existing laws are deeply stupid and contrary to the public interest. That puts the executive branch in an awkward position, but I’d rather they be in an awkward position than do this.

Constitutional issues aside, marijuana law and enforcement thereof has always, or at least in the past half-century or so, been primarily driven by culture and not by either legal or medical/scientific considerations. At least since the sixties, and probably before that going back to the twenties or so, marijuana has carried the stigma, for many people, of being the quintessential counter-culture, anarchic, disruptive, stuff-we-don’t-like-and-will-corrupt-the-youth “thing” that gets middle American up in arms (despite the fact that huge numbers of those same folks probably use it, have used it, or use something equally if not more potent on a regular basis).

I seriously doubt you’ll ever get a mainstream politician to finally admit that marijuana prohibition and all it has entailed is a bust, and come out for either legalization or large-scale decriminalization. It’d be political suicide for anyone running for national office, and ineffective for someone trying to push something through Congress I’m guessing.

The State/Federal power issue is interesting and probably tricky to resolve, but the underlying problem is very different. It’s part of a long-simmering culture war that shows no signs of going away.

Yeah agreed - reading up on some of the precedent setting cases, it appears the USSC has turned the tide in recent years on that a little bit, but the Raich case obviously shows there’s a long way to go.

The commerce cause limits they’ve come up with a very, very minimal at the end of the day though - that rape federalization thing. It’d take a way more radical SC than we have to push the boundary back significantly.

Before that the sixties marijuana was associated with people with brown skin, jazz musicians, and other undesirables, there was never a time when policy was based on anything vaguely resembling a rational basis. The modern War on Drugs was really, I’d say, started by Reagan, but the groundwork was laid by Nixon. Consider this staggering transcript of a meeting in the Oval Office:

search for “May 18, 1971.” A passage (RN=Nixon; AL=Art Linkletter):

Sadly many are not, but their numbers grow everyday.

I don’t understand why Obama is going after this? Is he really afraid it will be used as a campaign issue against him?

What a waste of money. It will just drive the supply underground again. People who smoke aren’t going to stop smoking it.

The Civil War decided that 150 years ago.

*not to imply the civil war was fought over states rights or alternatively was a divine crusade to free the slaves.

Thats the point though. Push it back underground, now its back to being eeevil and they can bust more people for use/production etc. and confiscate more money/property to fuel the bankrupt fed/state governments. The locals/states won’t care as long as they get their share of the booty.