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News (Media Awareness Project) - US CO: Editorial: More Confusion On Medical Pot
Title:US CO: Editorial: More Confusion On Medical Pot
Published On:2011-10-24
Source:Denver Post (CO)
Fetched On:2011-10-28 06:00:30

The forced closure of Calif. dispensaries further highlights the need
for clarity on federal policy.

This is a time of great uncertainty for those in the medical marijuana

While we've consistently criticized the creation of the dispensary
model -- that is not what Colorado voters had in mind in 2000 when
they passed a ballot measure legalizing medical marijuana -- we also
think dispensary owners ought to be treated fairly.

In short, enforcement rules ought to be clear. And that is not the

We're talking about the Department of Justice's evolving position on
how and when they'll enforce federal laws that make possession and use
of marijuana, medical or not, illegal.

The latest instance came recently in California when four federal
prosecutors ordered dozens of medical marijuana clubs to close.

The prosecutors said the businesses were too close to places where
children gather, or were being used by drug dealers as fronts.

The U.S. attorneys sent letters to landlords or owners of property
being used for the marijuana businesses, both retail and grow space,
saying they were at risk of prosecution or property

To be fair, the Department of Justice has never once hinted that it
would tolerate medical marijuana businesses being used by traffickers
for illicit distribution. In fact, two much-quoted memos from the DOJ
say just the opposite.

The memos talk about caregivers providing marijuana to people with
cancer or other serious illnesses not being an enforcement priority.

In our minds, that means the feds aren't interested in busting the
dying person who is smoking weed as part of a treatment regimen and in
accordance with state law.

That was the model we believe that Colorado voters approved when they
passed a state constitutional amendment legalizing medical marijuana.

The Cole memo from last summer says entities that engage in
large-scale commercial cultivation, sale and distribution of marijuana
- -- even those that "purport to comply with state law" -- were never
intended to be shielded from federal enforcement action.

Given what's happening in California, we have to wonder whether that
means federal law enforcement eventually will turn its attention to
the big dispensaries and cultivation operations that exist in this

The enforcement issue becomes more complex with the release last week
of a Gallup poll that said for the first time since the organization
began gauging public opinion on the issue, a record-high 50 percent of
Americans support legalization of marijuana.

The Justice Department needs to more clearly state its intentions in
enforcing federal drug laws when it comes to medical marijuana so
everyone involved has an unambiguous understanding of what the feds
will tolerate and what they won't.

If that sparks a broader conversation about legalization at the
national level, then so be it.
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