The first shot has been fired in Providence for the modern medical marijuana battle in the East. US Attorney Peter F. Neronha sent a harsh notice to Rhode Island on April 29th. The letter was addressed to the governor and state officials but in a new tactic, it was also sent to the handful of licensed medical cannabis dispensaries.
WNRI in Providence obtained a copy of the letter. It includes a revealing statement about how the federal government is treating the issue.
Accordingly while the Department of Justice does not focus its limited resources on seriously ill individuals who use marijuana as part of a medically recommended treatment regimen in compliance with state law as stated in the October 2009 Memorandum of Deputy Attorney General David Ogden, the Department of Justice maintains the authority to enforce the CSA vigorously against individuals and organizations that participate in unlawful manufacturing and distributing activity involving marijuana, even if such activities are permitted under state law.
We all know that state medical cannabis laws are in conflict with the federal Controlled Substances Act. But the last part seems to be the driving force behind a recent storm of Drug Enforcement Administration raids, “…even if such activities are permitted under state law.”
Clearly the federal government does not care if doctors recommend marijuana or if patients possess a small amount of cannabis. The forbidden sins are growing and selling. Again not new news, but the real kicker is the target.
Rhode Island recently licensed three dispensaries: The Thomas C. Slater Compassion Center, Greenleaf Compassionate Care Center and Summit Medical Compassion Center. All three were copied on the letter. Governor Lincoln Chaffee’s copy was delivered by hand.
The DEA conducted four raids in Washington on April 28th. A similar afternoon in Rhode Island would shut down all of the state’s carefully selected medical cannabis operators. The full letter is a clear and open threat to bring federal agents with automatic weapons to clear out regulated marijuana, cash registers, bank accounts and assets.
What has yet to be seen is the response from the fiercely independent state to the federal government’s prodding. There may be a taller political wall in Rhode Island for the DEA to hurdle.
Read the letter care of WNRI: http://wrnihealthcareblog.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/u-s-attorney-letter.pdf
Chris Goldstein is a respected marijuana reform advocate. As a writer and radio broadcaster he has been covering cannabis news for over a decade. He volunteers with local groups to change prohibition laws including PhillyNORML and The Coalition for Medical Marijuana New Jersey.