Medical Marijuana Raids to Halt? Attorney General Eric Holder and Obama Administration Signal Policy Shift
Last week, Attorney General Eric Holder signaled that federal raids on medical marijuana dispensaries will not continue under President Obama's administration.
MSNBC reports that Holder was asked about such raids after two California medical marijuana dispensaries were raided by the DEA in early February. Holder is quoted as saying, "[w]hat the president said during the campaign ... will be consistent with what we will be doing here in law enforcement." As the Wall Street Journal's Law Blog points out, what Obama said during the campaign includes what seems to be an openness to states who choose to legalize the controlled use of medical marijuana.
Prior to Attorney General Holder's comments, a change in course in the new administration was signaled immediately following DEA raids on the California dispensaries. At that point, Obama's appointees had yet to take over at the DEA. As quoted in the Washington Times, White House spokesman Nick Shapiro told reporters that, "[t]he president believes that federal resources should not be used to circumvent state laws, and as he continues to appoint senior leadership to fill out the ranks of the federal government, he expects them to review their policies with that in mind."
According to US News and World Report, twelve states currently have some form of medical marijuana laws on the books. Criminalization of marijuana has been challenged recently as antithetical to the budget crisis faced by states around the country. As US News reports, states in the red are rethinking their approach to the incarceration of non-violent drug offenders.
Some would go further -- like California state Representative Tom Ammiano, who thinks the state should legalize, regulate and tax marijuana cultivation. As reported in the San Francisco Chronicle, last week he put forth a proposal to do just that, with state analysis estimating such a measure would bring cash starved California $1.3 billion per year in taxes and fees.
It's highly unlikely that the Obama administration will go as far as Ammiano. Nor has there been any indication that any federal laws against marijuana will change. However, signals so far indicate that under new management, the DEA may not fight states that decide to allow medical marijuana.
- Debate rages over DEA raid of Westside medical marijuana dispensaries (LA Times' LA Now, Feb. 4)
- The Clash Between Federal Drug Law and California's "Medical Marijuana" Law (FindLaw's Writ)
- N.J. Senate backs legalizing medical marijuana (Philadelphia Inquirer)
- Drug Crimes Overview (provided by the Law Offices of Leon J. Mezzetti, Jr.)
- State Marijuana Laws (FindLaw)
- Sentencing Alternatives (FindLaw)