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DOJ directs prosecutors to end raids on medical marijuana facilities

[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] issued guidelines Monday directing federal prosecutors to respect state-sanctioned medical marijuana use and distribution, ending raids on facilities complying with state law. The memorandum [text] outlining DOJ priorities concerning illicit trafficking directs prosecutors not to focus on individuals acting in compliance with state medical marijuana laws. Though the DOJ declared its commitment to the Controlled Substances Act [text], the memo states the administration's intention to make "efficient" use of limited federal resources.

For example, prosecution of individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses who use marijuana as part of a recommended treatment regimen consistent with applicable state law, or those caregivers in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state law who provide such individuals with marijuana, is unlikely to be an efficient use of limited federal resources

Prosecutors were instructed to focus on enterprises that illegally profit from the sale and distribution of marijuana and individuals who claim compliance with state laws to "mask" illegal consumption. The memo provides prosecutors with a non-exhaustive list of characteristics to help determine when conduct is not in "clear and unambiguous compliance" with state law.

Holder announced plans [JURIST report] to end federal raids on medical marijuana facilities in March. The announcement fulfilled President Barack Obama's campaign pledge [Boston Globe report] to end raids of medical marijuana distributors, routinely practiced by the Drug Enforcement Agency [official website] under the Bush administration. Currently 14 states have legalized medical marijuana for patients suffering from chronic pain and terminal illnesses, with Rhode Island [JURIST report] becoming the latest to do so in June. The Supreme Court's 2005 decision in Gonzales v. Reich [opinion text; JURIST report] upheld Congress's power to criminalize the growth and use of medical marijuana if it so chooses.

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