Medical marijuana: Does Melinda Haag's memo foreshadow federal MMJ raids in Colorado?
Cannabis Therapy Institute release:
Feds Threaten State Dispensaries Nationwide
Protest Federal Intervention into State Medical Marijuana Laws
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In a little-publicized memo, the federal government has indicated that the gloves are off with regards to 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 the feds.
The "Haag Memo" was written on Feb. 1, 2011 from United States Attorney Melinda Haag (Northern District of California) to John A. Russo, Esq., Oakland City Attorney, in 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.
The "Haag Memo" clarifies the "Ogden Memo", which was written by former Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden on Oct. 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 that had medical marijuana laws. This was heralded by many as giving them the green light to pursue medical marijuana activities, as long as they were in compliance with state law.
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. 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 prosecuting medical marijuana dispensaries a "core priority" for the feds.
According to the memo, medical marijuana commercial activity is still considered by the Department of Justice to be "a violation of federal law regardless of state laws permitting such activities."
The memo may be the cause of the recent increase in federal raids at medical marijuana dispensaries. Only 4 days after the memo was issued, the DEA raided 4 dispensaries in California. Just this week, the DEA raided more dispensaries in California and Montana. They arrested dozens of people, and seized the assets and bank accounts of several dispensaries.
IMPLICATIONS FOR COLORADO
"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 (cannabislawsuits.com), who is trying to raise money to file lawsuits to uphold Colorado's Constitutional right to cannabis medicine. Many legal observers agree that Colorado has the best chance of fighting the feds in court because Colorado is one of the only states whose medical marijuana law is actually in the state Constitution.
However, last year the state of Colorado set up a regulatory scheme that required caregivers to surrender their Constitutional rights. The state created a new entity called a Medical Marijuana Center (MMC). However, in order to apply to become an MMC, the applicants had to surrender their Constitutional rights to be caregivers, leaving them with no Constitutional protection.
MMC applicants also had to sign their power of attorney over to the state Department of Revenue for extensive investigations of every aspect of their lives, including family, spouses, children, and bank accounts. Over 700 people applied to become MMCs last July 1, 2010. The investigations on these applicants are in full swing, and no licenses to applicants have yet been granted.
MORE QUOTES FROM THE HAAG MEMO
"We will enforce the CSA vigorously against individuals and organizations that participate in unlawful manufacturing and distribution activity involving marijuana, even if such activities are permitted under state law."
"Others who knowingly facilitate the actions of the licensees, including property owners, landlords, and financiers should also know that their conduct violates federal law."
"As the Attorney General has repeatedly stated, the Department of Justice remains fumly (sic) committed to enforcing the CSA in all states."