February 13, 2016

Full Text: Department of Justice Memo on Medical Marijuana

6/30/2011 – UPDATE 7/1/2011 – Freedomisgreen.com obtained the new Department of Justice memo concerning medical marijuana. The communication is from US Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole.  It was released on June 30th after New Jersey US Attorney Paul J. Fishman forwarded it to NJ state AG Paula Dow. The memo was sent to Dow in response to her multiple requests for federal clarification about medical marijuana operations authorized by state law.

Below is the full transcript. Link to original memo as a pdf

June 29, 2011


FROM:                  James M. Cole
Deputy Attorney General

SUBJECT:     Guidance Regarding the Ogden Memo in Jurisdictions
Seeking to Authorize Marijuana for Medical Use

Over the last several months some of you have requested the Department’s assistance in responding to inquiries from State and local government seeking guidance about the Department s position on enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act in jurisdictions that have under consideration, or have implemented, legislation that would sanction and regulate the commercial cultivation and distribution of marijuana for medical use. Some of these jurisdictions have considered approving the cultivation of large quantities of marijuana or broadening the regulation and taxation of the substance. You may have seen letters responding to these inquiries by several United States Attorneys. Those letters are entirely consistent with the October 2009 memorandum, issued by Deputy General Ogden to federal prosecutors in the States that have enacted laws authorizing the medical use of marijuana (the “Ogden Memo”).

The Department of Justice is committed to the enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act in all States. Congress has determined that marijuana is a dangerous drug that the illegal distribution and sale of marijuana is a serious crime that provides a significant source of revenue to large scale criminal enterprises, gangs and cartels. The Ogden Memorandum provides guidance to you in deploying resources to enforce the CSA as part of the exercise of the broad discretion you are given to address federal criminal matters within your districts.

A number of states have enacted some form of legislation relating to the medical use of marijuana. Accordingly the Ogden memo reiterated to you that prosecution  of significant traffickers in illegal drugs, including marijuana, remains a core priority, but advised 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 regimen consistent with applicable state law, or their caregivers. The term “caregiver” as used in the memorandum meant just that: individuals providing care to individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses, not commercial operations cultivating, selling or distributing marijuana.

The Department’s view of the efficient use of limited federal resources as articulated in the Ogden Memorandum has not changed. There has, however, been an increase in the scope of commercial cultivation, sale, distribution and use of marijuana for purported medical purposes. For example, within the past 12 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 the millions of dollars based on the plant cultivation of tens of thousands of cannabis plants.

The Odgen 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 the 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 enforcement of federal law with respect to such conduct, including enforcement of the CSA. Those who engage in transactions involving the proceeds of such activity may also be in violation of federal money laundering statutes and other federal financing laws.

The Department of Justice is tasked with enforcement of existing federal criminal laws in all states, and enforcement of the CSA has long been and remains a core priority,

Cc:  Lanny Breuer
Assistant Attorney General, Criminal Division

B. Todd Jones
United States AttorneyDistrict of Minnesota
Chair, AGAC

Michele M. Leonhart
Drug Enforcement Administration

H. Marshall Jarrett
Executive Office for United States Attorneys

Kevin L. Perkins
Assistant Director, Criminal Investigative Division
Federal Bureau  of Investigations

Link to memo as a pdf

Read more at Freedomisgreen.com

Chris Goldstein is a respected marijuana reform advocate. As a writer and radio broadcaster he has been covering cannabis news for over a decade. Questions?  chris@freedomisgreen.com




  1. Tiger Weedz says:

    The good folks at big pharma have put out a contract on us. Our safe alternative has them worried about proffit loss. When you hear rhetorric on the subject you hear a “pocketed” pollitician trying to make shure his or her slush fund does not go ellswhere. Our nation has never had a chance to vote on this subject. Since such a big %of us have been imprisoned no 1 can honestly call this oppressed nation a democratic 1. We should charge every pollitician who has stood between us & voting on this subject with treason & seek the death pennalty.


  2. so typical and completely backward thinking wtfg feds!! god forbid anyone one of those self serving sobs lose any strength governing what citizens of 15 states ELECT to do and make LAW in they’re own states.
    The very thing that when polled most people agree upon in the first place…the very thing and thinking that ruins lives of our youth and in turn costs billions …and that’s just to keep the LIES alive and keep the FEAR level as high as possible ..despite the FACTS !
    It’s just plain gross that these people are still holding positions of power…FIRE them all!


  3. HighPotNess says:

    Have we all forgotten our own constitution! The 10th amendment in the Bill of Rights states :

    “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

    and last time i checked the Constitution DOES NOT address or prohibit marijuana or any other drug for that matter !


  4. Matt says:

    Unfortunately, the federal law still remains so, and some people retain law over reason. If the law changed, suddenly, their talk would change. So the movement isn’t to argue with people who don’t matter, but to gain enough support and action of the people to modify the law. We, as the people, have done it before, and we can do it again, if we’re willing. Even if every state legalized medical, or even decriminalized it entirely, there would still be the issue of the federal law being able to prosecute, because it is written into the law.
    Let’s take action to getting the law changed. Educate others, be respectful, and don’t give up until it does.


  5. Anonomous says:

    State laws supercede any federal law within any state you fucking tyrants!


  6. Dr Lou says:

    It’s so hypocritical for the DOJ, DEA, FBI and the Federal Govt to condone medical marijuana but still prevent the production of marijuana for that purpose. They don’t want to be seen as attacking the weak, sick cancer patients, so instead they go after for-profit businesses seeking to fill the need that those same patients have. What’s the difference? The patients who need the herb still get screwed in the end. And where is the proof that cannabis is a “dangerous drug”? I can easily argue that the DEA is much more dangerous to society than marijuana has ever been. I only need one case to prove this point. In Tucson, AZ recently the DEA and local authorities raided the home of an Iraq War veteran and shot him more than 60 times at close range while the veteran didn’t fire a single round. The warrant has still not been made public and they have not released info stating that any contraband was found while serving the warrant. That is one needless death at the hands of the federal govt, and we all know this is just the most recent and obviously egregious incident in a long line of over-the-top anti-drug operations. Marijuana cannot be shown to have been responsible for the death of a single human being. We need to stand in solidarity and loudly voice our opposition to this tyrannical injustice. Email, write, and call you senators, representatives, and our president to call for the passage of The Ending Federal Marijuana Prohibition Act of 2011 (HR 2306). It’s highly likely that this bill will not pass but it’s imperative that we show a base of support for this bill so that we can maintain the momentum that has been gained in ending federal prohibition and furthering the debate for a sensible solution to regulating drugs and ending the drug war.


  7. John Silverton says:

    I think it time the Federal Government stopped Practicing Medicine without a License.
    A politician/bureaucrat has NO PLACE to be dictating medical practices.

    They should not be allowed to usurp the individual States sovereign right to enact laws appropriate
    to their jurisdiction.

    It is my considered opinion that the Federal Government should return to their proper place: supporting
    the States, NOT waging war upon their own citizens.

    Of course, I’m not a political genius and I could be wrong; but I treasure my Constitutional Right to speak my opinion in a public venue. If I can stimulate others to think about these issues, it may help us from going down the road taken by Nazi Germany and other Fascist countries. Like them, we are a Democratic Republic. I pray we can learn from their mistakes, and continue to fashion the ‘more perfect union’ that our Founding Fathers envisioned.


  8. Living with MS for the past 15 years, my entiure family relies on my use of this miracle of marijuana. We have 3 daughters that wish to go swimming at the beach as much as sleigh riding in the winter and everything in between. No child should be denied theese privilages of life even if their parent must use medical marijuana privately at home before such activities can occur. When I take RX narcotics (oxy contin, vicaden, percocet, etc) instead of medical marijuana I completely become stuck on a couch or in bed while nobody goes anywhere.

    I am sure there are many other parents stuck in my current situation but they must choose to stay in bed rather than play with their children.. And who knows what is safer for me? 25 different pills per day or 2 marijuana cigarettes?

    God Help Us All!


  9. Tom says:

    ‘Congress has determined that marijuana is a dangerous drug’

    No, Congress told Nixon that marijuana was safe. Yet, he denied their findings and went ahead with his War on Drugs!


  10. PbN2Au says:

    You forgot to mention that the Constitution itself is written on hemp 😉


  11. PbN2Au says:

    @ HighPotNess

    You forgot to mention that the Constitution itself is written on hemp 😉


  12. Colleen says:

    This is all about money, and you can be damned sure that there is a Helluva lot of cartel money involved, in order to keep pot illegal. That is one of real reasons behind Citizen’s United.
    Most of the money that cartels make comes from marijuana. If We, the People, were to call, write and email those whores we elected to office, and reminded them that whores are like city buses, we can always get another, I think that we would see a change. We, the People, are too silent when we should be loud.


  13. Renead says:

    Obama, the whole damn administration, congress and all of them can **** my *******. I am an adult and no one has the right to tell me what I can and can not put into my body. This country and our legal system is a damn joke. We have cops arresting patients and beating, tasering and pepper spraying mentally retarded minors. So anything anyone involved in the law tells me will go in one ear and out the other. They are nothing but liars and money hungry pricks.


  14. DankDogg says:

    This memo doesn’t even make sense.

    “Congress has determined that marijuana is a dangerous drug that the illegal distribution and sale of marijuana is a serious crime that provides a significant source of revenue to large scale criminal enterprises, gangs and cartels.” It’s not dangerous. Whats dangerous about sitting on your couch and laughing while eating snacks? Legalize and cut off the revenue stream to the dangerous cartels.

    “Some of these planned facilities have revenue projections of the millions of dollars based on the plant cultivation of tens of thousands of cannabis plants.” Whats the problem with producing revenue? Our entire American super capitalistic way of life is all about producing revenue. Whats wrong with millions of dollars in TAXABLE revenue?

    What is the government so afraid of? You cannot control the growth of a weed. Nature always finds a way.


  15. Laura Nason says:

    I don’t think it’s just Big Pharma that has a problem with legalizing Marijuana either. I think the Big Tobacco Companies might be in there too. Think about it. Tobacco can only be grown in certain climates, mostly in the Southern States. South Carolina is one.
    But anyone can grow marajuana plants in their back yard, in pots in their living rooms, in any state or climate. That would be a fortune in lost revenue for both megacorporations and for the politicians they purchase.


  16. Mitch says:

    Exactly. I have probably been prescribed some of the same medicines as you: Baclofen, Vicodin, Oxy Contin because of a severe spinal cord injury. My feelings are exactly the same. Taking any of these medicines for a long time will have bad side effects. Many years ago I simply started refusing them and found a doctor who would prescribe Codeine. For fifteen years I have taken Tylenol 3s as needed with never any sign of any kind of addiction or increase in dosage or usage. Thing is, though, that taking Tylenol regularly for many years is damaging my liver.
    The doctors are under heavy pressure from the feds to not prescribe pain meds. If I ask a doctor to prescribe just Codeine for my chronic pain, they just laugh and say, “Nobody takes Codeine except recreationally and it is drug abuse.” Which is, of course, complete nonsense. They just gave someone life for their third Marijuana possession conviction in my area. If MJ were legal I would use it occasionally because I know, from personal experience that it is very effective in treating my condition. Both Codeine and MJ have thousands of years of usage history and, although Codeine can be addictive to many people it isn’t. There are documented cases of people using both of these medicines for fifty years or more and leading completely normal lives. Normal lives they wouldn’t have been able to lead without it.


  17. Chris says:

    It’s simple. To the Feds you legalize marijuana or “decriminalize” it and their worst enemy the cartels, gangs, and those that do pose a threat will lose a large portion of their money. Which leaves them with the choice to decriminalize marijuana and watch the cartel go rampant with heroin, cocaine and other life-threatening drugs just so they can stay in business.

    It’s simple, let them keep their business selling marijuana which in turn keeps people happy and non-violent, the government still makes billions on marijuana arrests and prisons and the cartel stays satisfied and keeps the life-threatening drugs “manageable”.

    We’ve got our selves a problem here folks… The government should start working with the people of the United States to solve the real issues at hand instead of playing the field.

    I for one am not a user of any drugs but am intelligent enough to know that legalizing marijuana and taxing it (not to mention the job numbers created to the production and retail of regulated marijuana sales) would help to get us out of the $14Trillion debt we have allowed our government to get us into.

    I think once your in debt up to your eyeballs there is really no way to think clear at all, so the government really need the peoples help to get out of this, and needs to “man” up and start taking it’s citizens suggestions seriously. After all we’re thinking clearly whereas day-to-day they are in worry how we’re going to survive until tomorrow.

    Thank God for organizations like NORML and others that are doing something about it.


  18. Rocky says:

    This is all about the money period! Congrress budgets 23 billion dollars annually for the War on Drugs. What happens to these agencies who are sucking up all this tax money if the WOD is ended?
    Big business rules our government and their voices are the only ones being listened to. Voters have as much chance of making change here as the people in Beijing. Our government sold us out a long time ago. The only way to take back our country is the way our founding fathers did 235 years ago.


  19. SamFox says:

    Right on Matt!

    Everyone, look up Ron Paul & Barny Frank’s legislation to get the Feds off MMJ user backs.

    Ron Paul & Gary Johnson are the only two POTUS candidates who would actually END the drug war. Ron has been saying end it for decades & Gary advocates for RE-legalization because he used MMJ himself. Some years back Gary was injured. He used MMJ for his pain as he did not, like most if not all, MMJ users, do not want to become addicted to Rx scrip drugs. Gary also said MMJ is much safer than alcohol.

    The biggest thing in the favor of these two POTUS aspirants is that they both have verifiable records that you can check.

    Back checking the records of the others shows most of them are just now using points Ron Paul have been advocating for years.

    Romney’s flip flopping record would make 0 proud! Michelle Bachmann voted to extend the ‘Patriot’ Act.

    I say, research aALL their records. You will find that Ron Paul & /Gary Johnson have the most reliable PRO-Constitution records out there in the current group of POTUS candidates.

    Look up 0’s flip flop on Fed enforcement on states & MMJ. 0 is such a liar!!

    The above is a stark contrast to what 0 SAID:

    “What I’m not going to be doing is using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state [medical marijuana] laws.”

    Barack Obama, Oregon Mail Tribune, March 22, 2008

    Here is GREAT article from the Seattle Times to consider:



  20. stephen g says:

    Pharmacy and Tobacco lobby is keeping this down. It’s ok for the medical industry to addict citizens to PROZAC, but but some hemp and you take money out of their pockets. Fire them all, tell them no. Grow your own and stop taking your meds. You will feel better. The war on drugs was lost before Regan gave it a title…..


  21. Chris says:

    Now the big question is whether the federal government will adopt a new strategy when it comes to enforcement. I wonder if this was more of an attempt to halt the growth of the industry via scare tactics rather than a move to stomp it out entirely. We do have an election coming up next year, so I’m sure those in power are trying to walk a fine line without taking a clear, strong position.
    Dispensary Business News


  22. Trevor says:

    It will be interesting to see if, these letters don’t acheive their purpose, how long it will take before state governments get raided by the DEA, I mean, State and Federal governments are supposed to compete, but even this is madness!


  23. Brian says:

    “Congress has determined that marijuana is a dangerous drug that the illegal distribution and sale of marijuana is a serious crime that provides a significant source of revenue to large scale criminal enterprises, gangs and cartels.”

    Talk about lying through their teeth.. Marijuana, dangerous? Yea, and seatbelts are known to strangle people.

    Also, if cartels and gangs getting money is a problem, then why the hell would the US government let them control the black markets? Legalize it and they lose control. Win win, but the US Gov’t aint smart enough to see it, or is too stubborn to change after all the horrible, untrue propaganda they’ve put out against marijuana.


  24. dray says:

    70 billion dollars a year ,with a raise every year is why……


  25. Master Dragon says:

    Everywhere you look these days, the government is opposing the citizenry. We tell them how it is going to be, and they ignore us. I can’t write what I want here because of something called the “Smith Act”. But there is only one solution, and millions of Americans will have to stand up, together, united in purpose, and take the government away from those controlling it and our country. And you can’t do that by voting. Get ready, and gather the necessary resources, the day is coming.


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