Thursday, March 17, 2011

Feds say medical marijuana is as illegal as ever

Posted By on Thu, Mar 17, 2011 at 4:15 PM

U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag
  • U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag

Today, a news release from the Cannabis Therapy Institute brought to light a February memo from the U.S. Department of Justice. It clarifies that regardless of state law, "the prosecution of individuals and organizations involved in the trade of any illegal drugs and the disruption of drug trafficking organizations is a core priority of the Department."

"As the Department has stated on many occasions, Congress has determined that marijuana is a controlled substance," wrote Melinda Haag, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California, on Feb. 1 in response to a clarification request from the Oakland city attorney. "Congress placed marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and, as such, growing, distributing, and possessing marijuana in any capacity, other than as part of a federally authorized research program, is a violation of federal law regardless of state laws permitting such activities."

CTC says it thinks the memo could explain the recent increase in federal raids at dispensaries in California and Montana, where dozens were arrested, and the assets and bank accounts of the owners seized.

"Maybe this will wake people up who think that it can't happen here," says Kathleen Chippi of the Colorado-based Patient and Caregiver Rights Litigation Project. (See more on her efforts here and here.)

The memo came in response to a query from Oakland city attorney John A. Russo regarding a local company's plan to build an industrial-scale medical marijuana warehouse, an operation Haag said the DOJ is "concerned" about.

"Accordingly, the Department is carefully considering civil and criminal legal remedies regarding those who seek to set up industrial marijuana growing warehouses in Oakland pursuant to licenses issued by the city of Oakland, individuals who elect to operate 'industrial cannabis cultivation and manufacturing facilities' will be doing so in violation of federal law," Haag wrote, continuing with strong words for those who assist dispensary owners. "Others who knowingly facilitate the actions of the licensees, including property owners, landlords, and financiers should also know that their conduct violates federal law.

"Potential actions the Department is considering include injunctive actions to prevent cultivation and distribution of marijuana and other associated violations of the CSA; civil fines; criminal prosecution; and the forfeiture of any property used to facilitate a violation of the CSA. As the Attorney General has repeatedly stated, the Department of Justice remains fully committed to enforcing the CSA in all states."

See the entire memo here; see the original Holder memo here.

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