Monday, May 09, 2011
US Dept of Justice threatens state workers who administer medical marijuana laws
by Larry Geller
Washington state Governor Chris Gregoire has vetoed a medical marijuana bill that came to her desk after receiving a letter from a US attorney stating that Washington state officials involved in administering the state’s laws would not be immune from federal prosecution under the Controlled Substances Act. No doubt she was likely looking for a reason to veto it anyway, but the Department of Justice gave her a good one.
The state attorney general's office says it cannot predict whether federal prosecutors would take action against Washington state employees for regulating the medical marijuana industry.
[SeatlePI, AG: Can't predict fed actions on marijuana in WA, 5/9/2011]
The federal government has not, in modern times, prosecuted state employees for implementing state programs—even states that are openly in violation of federal civil rights laws or court orders.
In February, US Attorneys sent letters to some state officials indicating that the Obama administration was changing its policy with regard to state medical marijuana laws. The DOJ had previously said that although marijuana remains illegal at the federal level, they would not interfere with states passing laws to regulate medical marijuana. The threat to prosecute state employees goes way beyond a simple reversal of policy, it would be an almost unprecedented attack on state sovereignty.
Despite the previous policy, raids continued against medical marijuana dispensaries, particularly in California, where federal raids have continued. It appears that the DOJ remains unhappy primarily with dispensaries, though they do not object to patients obtaining their mmj on the black market.