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Medical marijuana: Jared Polis disappointed in Justice Dept. memo but doubts sky is falling

Thumbnail image for jared polis twitter.jpg
Jared Polis.
Last week, Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole sent a memo to U.S. attorneys about medical marijuana -- and rather than diminishing the paranoia of MMJ industry types in the wake of an earlier memo by U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag hinting at possible dispensary raids, it amplified them. Time to hit the panic button? Not according to Congressman Jared Polis, a vocal supporter of MMJ. But he remains disappointed with the Cole memo.

The Haag memo seemed to contradict a 2009 memo by Deputy AG David Ogden, which suggested that U.S. Attorneys shouldn't devote significant dollars and cents to prosecuting medical marijuana operations following the law in states that had approved MMJ. But while the Cole memo reiterates that "it is likely not an efficient use of federal resources to focus enforcement efforts on individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses who use marijuana as part of a recommended treatment regiment consistent with applicable state law, or their caregivers," the document stresses that the term "caregiver" means "individuals providing care to individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses, not commercial operations cultivating, selling or distributing marijuana." In other words, a dispensary isn't a caregiver.

Additionally, the memo maintains that there has been "an increase in the scope of commercial cultivation, sale, distribution and use of marijuana for purported medical purposes. For example, within the past twelve months, several jurisdictions have considered or enacted legislation to authorize multiple large-scale, privately-operated industrial marijuana cultivation centers. Some of these planned facilities have revenue projections of millions of dollars based on the planned cultivation of tens of thousands of cannabis plants.

"The Ogden Memorandum was never intended to shield such activities from federal enforcement action and prosecution, even where those activities purport to comply with state law. Persons who are in the business of cultivating, selling or distributing marijuana, and those who knowingly facilitate such activities, are in violation of the Controlled Substances Act, regardless of state law. Consistent with resource constraints and the discretion you may exercise in your district, such persons are subject to federal enforcement action, including potential prosecution. State laws or local ordinances are not a defense to civil or criminal enforcement offederal law with respect to such conduct, including enforcement of the CSA."

The document also stresses that "those who engage in transactions involving the proceeds of such activity may also be in violation of federal money laundering statutes and other federal financial laws."

Polis's take? According to Chris Fitzgerald, his communications director, "the congressman's preference would have been for the Justice Department to step up and lift the threat of arrest and prosecution and make it clear that state-endorsed, voter-approved medical marijuana businesses aren't going to be raided. Unfortunately, they didn't take that far a step.

"But at the same time, the memo doesn't seem to alter the Ogden memo significantly," Fitzgerald goes on. "It still provides U.S. Attorneys with discretion when it comes to prosecutions, and we would urge them to use that discretion."

Indeed, Polis continues to believe that regulation of the sort enacted by Colorado "is the most appropriate approach to medical marijuana," Fitzgerald says. "The voters of Colorado have approved it, and it's shown to be a revenue raiser for the state. It ensures that medical marijuana users are able to get access to help alleviate their pain and suffering. Colorado's approach simply makes sense, which is why the congressman is asking that the federal government step aside and allow states to effectively regulate their medical marijuana industry."

Along these lines, Polis has authored the Small Business Banking Improvement Act, which is intended to guarantee access to financial services for medical marijuana businesses. The idea, notes Fitzgerald, is to prevent "the federal government from using the Bank Secrecy Act to intimidate banks that do business with medical marijuana businesses that are fully legal. They deserve access to the same type of financial services that any legal small business in Colorado has."

Polis is also a sponsor of bill by Congressman Barney Frank that would immunize individuals and businesses against federal prosecution for marijuana offenses if they're following state MMJ laws. And although the measure doesn't remove marijuana from the list of Schedule 1 drugs, Fitzgerald points out that "it basically directs the administration to begin the process of rescheduling, so that it's not either Schedule 1 or Schedule 2." After all, he says, "Schedule 1 basically says marijuana has no medicinal purpose whatsoever, which we believe simply isn't the case."

In short, "the congressman believes the prohibition policy that's currently in place has failed, just like it failed with alcohol, He believes in state regulation is a more effective way to keep marijuana out of the hands of children. The drug dealer on the corner doesn't care who he sells to, but a strictly regulated system would keep it away from children and free up resources to go after truly violent criminals. That's a smarter approach to dealing with drugs."

Likewise, Polis feels prosecuting MMJ businesses blessed by Colorado's government "is counterproductive," Fitzgerald allows, "and they shouldn't be under the threat of arrest or prosecution."

Look below to read the entire Cole memo, which can also be accessed by clicking here.

James Cole Memo Regarding Medical Marijuana

More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana: Does U.S. Attorney John Walsh's letter signal end of federal MMJ truce?"

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13 comments
Jail Nation
Jail Nation

Getting medical marijuana in Oregon is to obtain a written recommendation (also known as marijuana prescription) from a state-licensed physician, indicating that you have been diagnosed with a debilitating medical condition and that the medical use of marijuana may mitigate the symptoms or effects of the your debilitating condition.

AncientMedicine
AncientMedicine

A LITTLE CLARIFICATION ON HEMP, THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE, THE CONSTITUTION AND THE BILL OF RIGHTS:

While the early DRAFTS and some early COPIES of the Constitution, Declaration of Independence, andBill of Rights were most likely written on hemp paper -- as most paper was made from hemp or flax and a mixture of recycled rags andcloth -- THE official Declaration of Independence, THE Constitution and THE Bill of Rights that are all housed in the National Archives were written on parchment (treated animalskin, typically sheepskin), not hemp paper.

Source(s):

http://www.usconstitution.net/...

AncientMedicine
AncientMedicine

Yeah, let the Lord forgive them, because I cannot forgive people who have made it their life's work to keep "one of the safest therapeutically active substances known to man" (DEA Judge Francis L. Young's words) from the sick and dying.

I've never voted for a Republican in two decades, but the only two presidential candidates I'd trust on this issue are Gary Johnson and Ron Paul. With 70-80 percent of Americans supporting access to medicinal cannabis, it is politically unwise for Obama to stand between physicians and their patients.

What the Heck is Obama thinking (is he conflating his years experimenting with Maui Wowie with medicinal use)? I think this is the problem with a lot of the Nanny-types; they had a bad or a "too weird" brownie experience at Alpha Beta Gamma; and now, they know better than real researchers and physicians.

Colorado Mmj Patient
Colorado Mmj Patient

The Feds don't have the budget to go after everyone.  They will just pick the low hanging fruit to scare the rest into strictly following the laws.  It may be all moot if MMCs can't pay all these fees the Cities and State are ramming down their throats.

Kurtriggin
Kurtriggin

Here is the problem with this the people did not vote on any law allowing MMJ stores.  The state cannot regulate a schedule 1 drug such as heroin or weed without violating the law how dumb are our public officals that think they can tax a illegal drug under state laws.

Guest
Guest

Thanks jared! I appreciate your continued support of medical marijuana.

KaDargo
KaDargo

With any luck, maybe congress will continue to not raise the debt ceiling and therefor not be able to borrow any more money to continue to pay the DEA.  With all the layoffs, there will be one one left in the DEA to bother the MMJ community.  We can hope!

High Country Caregiver
High Country Caregiver

I would like to be Obama's caregiver one day.  He probably has been smoking lots of outdoor tropical Sativa like Maui Wowie.  Sometimes it's good to have some motivating bud.  When it's time http://420.co

High Country Caregiver
High Country Caregiver

It will be the weak who are attacked, the sick, the ones with children, who couldn't afford the card, who thought they were OK.  The ones who will be prosecuted will be the ones easily forgotten, the ones who are right, not wrong.  The ones who will suffer are the poor.

What will that patients' dispensary do to help?  $20 1/8's on every corner are making many people sick.

jmf420
jmf420

You should probably do some research before you post bs.  Heroin is a schedule 2 drug, hence opiate based pain pills.  So yes, what the federal government is try say, is that cannabis is a more dangerous substance than heroin.

Colorado Mmj Patient
Colorado Mmj Patient

They are blinded by GREED.  Denver is demanding $8k for a license now. 

AncientMedicine
AncientMedicine

TWELVE PRESIDENTS HAVE SMOKED CANNABIS/HEMP!

I don't know if Obama is going to be looking for a caregiver any time soon, but considering he has smoked his share of cigarettes, he may need a caregiver down the road. Hopefully, he won't need a caregiver and will just legalize it so he can enjoy it again some day. But our founding fathers were definitely growing hemp and cannabis, and they would have loved to speak to a modern-day growing expert and to obtain all the seeds (or clones). When we figure out time travel, we can send you back, HCC. According to Dr. Burke, president of the American Historical Reference Society and a consultant for the Smithsonian Institute, 12 presidents have smoked cannabis, including 7 early presidents:George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, Andrew Jackson, Zachary Taylor and Franklin Pierce

And then in the middle comes Lincoln and then the modern-day presidents: Kennedy, W. Bush, Clinton (though he claims he didn't inhale -- how ridiculous) and of course, Obama.

Check out this History Channel Link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

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