Attorney General Eric Holder, Jr. gave instructions that in the 14 states where medical marijuana use is legal, federal prosecutors should focus only on those cases involving a more serious level of trafficking or the use of state laws to camouflage other operations. “This balanced policy formalizes a sensible approach that the Department has been following since January: effectively focus our resources on serious drug traffickers while taking into account state and local laws,” Holder stated.
“It will not be a priority to use federal resources to prosecute patients with serious illnesses or their caregivers who are complying with state laws on medical marijuana,” Holder said. “But we will not tolerate drug traffickers who hide behind claims of compliance with state law to mask activities that are clearly illegal.”
This move by the Justice Department comes only a few days after a Senate bill was introduced that would remove the difference between sentences for cocaine possession in powder form and rock form. Drug reform advocates, judges, and civil rights advocates have long sought this change.
The memo detailing the DOJ policy directives came from the desk of Deputy Attorney General David Ogden. He made clear that “this guidance regarding resource allocation does not ‘legalize’ marijuana or provide a legal defense to a violation of federal law.” In fact, Ogden wrote, “One timely example underscores the importance of our efforts to prosecute significant marijuana traffickers: marijuana distribution in the United States remains the single largest source of revenue for the Mexican cartels.”
While cases clearly involving medicinal use of marijuana are to be de-emphasized, certain factors were listed that “may indicate illegal drug trafficking activity of potential federal interest”:
• unlawful possession or unlawful use of firearms;
• sales to minors;
• financial and marketing activities inconsistent with the terms, conditions, or purposes of state law, including evidence of money laundering activity and/or financial gains or excessive amounts of cash inconsistent with purported compliance with state or local law;
• amounts of marijuana inconsistent with purported compliance with state or local law;
• illegal possession or sale of other controlled substances; or
• ties to other criminal enterprises.
Tom Angell, a spokesman for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a group of current and former law-enforcement officials who want to end the war on drugs, told the Post in an e-mail that the changes seem to be a “major step” in the right direction.
For a perspective on the drug war based on the Constitution, states’ rights, personal liberty, and individual responsibility, view the following YouTube video of Ron Paul’s April 15 appearance on CNN: