Feds Threaten Marijuana Dispensaries Nationwide

Friday, March 18, 2011

Government vs Cannabis
In a little-publicized memo, the U.S. federal government has indicated that the gloves are off regarding medical marijuana dispensaries, regardless of state laws.

Previous memos had indicated a loosening of federal prosecutions of medical marijuana; however the new memo states very clearly that the feds consider all dispensaries illegal under federal law and that their prosecution is a "core priority" of federal agents, according to the Cannabis Therapy Institute (CTI).

The "Haag Memo" [PDF], written on February 1, 2011 from U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag (Northern District of California) to Oakland City Attorney John A. Russo, was a response to an Oakland City Council request for guidance regarding medical marijuana and federal law. The memo was written with consultation and approval from U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, according to CTI.

The Haag Memo clarifies the Ogden Memo, which was written by former Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden on October 19, 2009 for the Department of Justice.

The Ogden Memo seemed to indicate that the new Obama Administration would restrict federal prosecution of medical marijuana providers in states where medicinal cannabis is legal.

This was heralded by many as giving the green light to pursue medical marijuana businesses, as long as they complied with state laws.

According to CTI, the Haag Memo clears up that misconception with some very unambiguous statements.

"The memo says clearly that the feds will not look the other way on medical marijuana," CTI said in a press release. "The 'Haag Memo' states very clearly that the feds will continue to investigate, arrest and prosecute medical marijuana dispensaries in every state 'regardless of state laws.' "

In addition, the memo calls the prosecution of medical marijuana dispensaries a "core priority" for the feds.

Medical marijuana commercial activity is still considered by the DOJ to be "a violation of federal law regardless of state laws permitting such activities," according to the memo, CTI said.

The memo may be the cause of the recent increase in federal raids and medical marijuana dispensaries, according to CTI. Only four days after the Haag Memo was issued, the DEA raided four dispensaries in California. Just this week, the DEA raided more dispensaries in California and Montana. Agents seized the assets and bank accounts of several dispensaries.

"Maybe this will wake people up who think that it can't happen here," said Kathleen Chippi of the Colorado-based Patient and Caregiver Rights Litigation Project, which is trying to raise money to file lawsuits to uphold the constitutional right of Coloradans to cannabis medicine.

Many legal observers agree that Colorado has the best chance of fighting the feds in court because it is the only state whose medical marijuana law is actually in the state Constitution.

By Steve Elliott/tokeofthetown.com