Top

blog

Stories

 

Medical marijuana state employees won't face fed prosecution: What's it mean for Colorado?

jan brewer.jpg
Jan Brewer.
As reported by our Toke of the Town blog, the Department of Justice's response to a lawsuit by Arizona Governor Jan Brewer directly contradicted an assertion by Colorado Attorney General John Suthers that state employees might be prosecuted for enforcing state medical marijuana laws. Attorney Brian Vicente sees that as good news for the MMJ industry and advocates of marijuana reform.

"They've explicitly acknowledged that no prosecutions have happened in this area ever in history," says Vicente, who's also one of the main proponents of the Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol Act of 2012. "And it's entirely unlikely they will ever happen."

Thumbnail image for john suthers facebook portrait.JPG
John Suthers.
That's not what the state's AG claimed a few months back. As we reported in April, Suthers asked U.S. Attorney John Walsh for an opinion about some aspects of HB 1043, the so-called medical marijuana clean-up bill. Walsh attacked two provisions of the measure, which were ultimately stripped out prior to its passage. But in a note to legislators included with Walsh's take, Suthers wrote, "U.S. Attorneys do not consider state employees who conduct activities under state medical marijuana laws to be immune from liability under federal law," raising the specter that Department of Revenue officials, or possibly even legislators, could be charged with marijuana crimes.

Suthers wasn't the only official making such assertions. As Toke's Steve Elliott points out, letters from U.S. Attorneys in Washington state said pretty much the same thing.

Brewer used this rationale, among others, to justify a lawsuit intended to prevent medical marijuana from becoming Arizona law, which she sees as conflicting with U.S. drug laws. But in a brief prompted by the suit, the Department of Justice rejected her claims because she failed to provide evidence that state employees would face prosecution from the feds. And since Justice would be the department to initiate such actions, the argument carries a great deal of weight.

Thumbnail image for brian vicente photo.jpg
Brian Vicente.
Vicente's view? "I think it called the bluff of Jan Brewer," he says. Prosecutions wouldn't happen without "a very significant shift in the Department of Justice's priorities and actions -- and again, there's no precedent for that kind of prosecution. So I think it's given a green light to state governments that they can operate and implement medical marijuana laws without worrying about the Department of Justice targeting their employees."

He acknowledges that "a judge hasn't decided the issue, so this is merely the Department of Justice's opinion. But I think it's pretty likely they'll say these prosecutions are not coming, so let's fulfill what the voters of Arizona want."

Immunity from prosecution doesn't translate to people in the medical marijuana business who are following the laws administered by such staffers. "While I think it provides breathing room for states to implement these programs, patients and provides should be well aware that the Department of Justice is continuing to ponder this process -- and in the meantime, they could continue to face prosecution."

Even so, Vicente thinks DOJ's interpretation is "part of an undeniable wave, where public sentiment is pushing government to take a more reasonable view on medical marijuana. Roughly 80 percent of the American public supports the rights of patients to have access to this medicine, and I think piece by piece, the Department of Justice and other wings of the government are starting to embrace this view. And certainly as more states pass medical marijuana laws, the government will see the writing on the wall.

"Eventually, they'll have to deal with this in the majority of states -- and ultimately all fifty states. And as more states adopt these laws, the federal government will realize they need to adjust their policies to reflect the mainstream support for medical marijuana."

More from our Marijuana archive: "Medical marijuana: HB 1043 co-sponsor Pat Steadman not sure he agrees with entire bill."


Sponsor Content

My Voice Nation Help
9 comments
Jer
Jer

I'm not really really sure but. . . the straightforward fact is that marijuana treatment reveals its results and that they won't be concealed for a long time.--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Semi di Cannabis

Robert Chase
Robert Chase

The Colorado General Assembly's marijuana distribution scheme is untenable; whether the Feds plan to prosecute officials of the MMED under this Administration at this time has no bearing on prospects for this extra-constitutional system.  The State has blatantly violated and is violating the supreme law of Colorado every day, and is denying access to patients throughout much of the state.  Caregivers are free to supply cannabis to patients, and the legislators, bureaucrats, judges, and police who pretend otherwise must be stopped.

Colorado Mmj Patient
Colorado Mmj Patient

They are working on a way for their friends (big pharma) to make money off of it.  Once that happens, the feds will love MMJ. 

High Country Caregiver
High Country Caregiver

"Roughly 80 percent of the American public supports the rights of patients to have access to this medicine"

I'd like to see any reference to this seemingly very high number.  Most studies that I have read say more like 50%.

Youssef
Youssef

HAHAHA brewer went from "hero" with immigration, to "zero" with a harmless plant. Funny how you can be so smart on one issue and a drooling retard on another.

S. Smith
S. Smith

Yes, and Brian Vicente's new proposed constitutional amendment ballot initiative would put that whole system into our Constitution. How can anyone say that putting the current seed-to-sale surveillance system in the Constitution is a good thing?

TooSmart
TooSmart

Yep, that is probably the case, nothing like a corp-acracy.

Trick James
Trick James

It's 80 for medical 50 for full legalization.

Hot Stuff
Hot Stuff

@Smith:disqus   - You are wrong in your assumption. No where is seed-to-sale distribution mentioned, or suggested in the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana like Alcohol's initiative. In fact, it has that the measures have to less restrictive than the current regulations.

Now Trending

Denver Concert Tickets

Around The Web

From the Vault

 

Loading...