Last May Congress voted to prevent the United States Justice Department from using taxpayer dollars to enforce federal marijuana laws in states where medical marijuana is legal. Pot fans all looked at this move as the beginning of the end of federal marijuana prohibition. However raids have continued. And this leaked memo reveals just how far the DEA will go to keep it that way.
According to an internal memo obtained by Marijuana.com Justice Department officials misinformed members of Congress about the effects of a medical marijuana amendment being considered by the U.S. House of Representatives. Apparently a few days prior to the vote Justice Department officials distributed “informal talking points” warning House members that the measure could “in effect, limit or possibly eliminate the Department’s ability to enforce federal law in recreational marijuana cases as well.”
These talking points were “intended to discourage passage of the rider,” says Patty Merkamp Stemler, chief of the Criminal Division’s Appellate Section, but do not “reflect our current thinking.”
One of the measure’s lead sponsors, Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA), told Marijuana.com, “This memo uses a lot of legal jargon to twist the issue but Congress was clear: Stop prosecuting medical marijuana patients and their providers. There was no confusion in Congress when we passed the amendment last year.”
And get this, last week Farr and fellow amendment sponsor Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA) asked the Department of Justice’s inspector general to launch an internal investigation into ongoing federal interference in state medical marijuana laws. “Congress is not mixing its words, the DOJ may not use any funds to continue these needless prosecutions,” Farr told Marijuana.com.
The congressman’s spokesman said his office has not yet heard back on the request for an investigation, but expects that the department will revise its view of the law in line with its sponsor’s interpretation. However Patrick Rodenbush, a Justice Department spokesman, disagrees. He told Marijuana.com in a statement that “Consistent with the Department’s stated enforcement priorities, we don’t expect that the amendment will impact our ability to prosecute private individuals or private entities who are violating the Controlled Substances Act,”
Alex Kreit, a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law and longtime observer of the politics of marijuana said that even if the Justice Department’s interpretation of the text turns out to be legally correct, “it’s hard to understand why it would take that position.”
This leaked memo, combined with continued raids in legal states, clearly illustrates just how little the Department of Justice cares about Congress, the will of the people and cannabis consumers. We’ll keep you posted as this story unfolds.
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