Thursday, March 19, 2009

Justice Department won't go after legitimate medical marijuana dispensaries

The New York Times reported on a conversation between Attorney General Eric Holder and reporters on the Obama Administration's new policy on medical marijuana enforcement. There is no new written advice to U.S. Attorneys that has been made public.

It is completely unclear how the department is going to proceed. It is unclear how they will balance gray areas, and what criteria they will weigh in determining when to investigate, and on what circumstances to raid or to prosecute.

It is unclear what kinds of arrangement dispensaries have with suppliers may result in investigation. For example, if a dispensary has Mexican cannabis in its inventory, will that result in investigative scrutiny that would be different from the case in which the supply is grown exclusively within the state in which the dispensary is operating?

I commend the Department of Justice for reiterating and attempting to clarify the approach it will take to protect bona fide patients from federal enforcement. But the department must signal more clearly what kinds of conduct it considers deserving of prosecution. Otherwise, persons will may rely upon a mistaken interpretation of the Attorney General's comments to their life long regret. That is not the way law and rules are supposed to be issued.

The department must not set up a game of "chicken" in which those who guess correctly operate without interference, and those who make an incorrect, but reasonable guess, get hammered.

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