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

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?  [email protected]

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