Medical Marijuana Laws: Onus on States

By Kamika Dunlap on October 30, 2009 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The dope game has changed.

Since the recent federal decision not to prosecute legal users or providers of medical marijuana, states are scrambling to figure out their new role.

According to the Washington Post, the Department of Justice will not focus on those who comply with state and local laws, but instead focus on cases involving higher-level drug traffickers, money launderers or people who use the state laws as a cover.

That means local and state officials will not only have more work but a tougher job at that. They will need to crackdown on places that profit by selling pot to people who don't qualify as medical users.

Regulating medical marijuana presents unique challenges for each state.

As noted in the New York Times, in some places like New Hampshire officials are considering a marijuana law. California, the first state to legalize marijuana for medical purposes in 1996, may require that all medical dispensaries operate as nonprofit organizations.

Then there's Steve Cooley.

He's Los Angeles' top prosecutor who is taking things into his own hands. As the Los Angeles County District Attorney, he is determined to send a strong warning to pot clinics that sell for profit.

In a report by the Associated Press, Cooley said his plan is to send a "salvo in a prolonged conflict in California over whether medical marijuana is truly having its intended effect or is being abused by the larger population."

The long and the short of this is that there's still a lot of gray area as states try to figure out how to keep medical marijuana use in check.

Federal authorities however, have made it clear that their tolerance stops at recreational use.

Moreover, the article from the NY Times highlighting the Oct. 19 memorandum about federal medical marijuana guidelines mentions Deputy Attorney General David W. Ogden's statement that marijuana is ''a dangerous drug, and the illegal distribution and sale of marijuana is a serious crime,'' adding that ''no state can authorize violations of federal law.''

Put that in your pipe and smoke it.

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