A letter from the Department of Justice, sent yesterday to Washington state Gov. Chris Gregoire (D), warned of the potential for criminal prosecutions of state employees who engage in the production of medical marijuana, which is now legally sanctioned in the state.
The message would seem to stand in stark contrast to the Obama administration’s claim that they would not prosecute medical marijuana dispensaries that were operating within a state that had legalized it.
Washington state’s legislature did just that last week, approving a bill that would allow state employees to license growers and sellers of the product, as well as retail locations.
Reacting to the bill, Gov. Chris Gregoire wrote to Attorney General Eric Holder, requesting more information on how the federal government views the matter.
The DoJ’s letter in response, written by Attorneys Jenny Durkan and Michael Ormsby, was nothing short of unambiguous.
“The prosecution of individuals and organizations involved in the trade of any illegal drugs and the disruption of drug trafficking organizations is a core priority of the Department,” they replied. “This core priority includes prosecution of business enterprises that unlawfully market and sell marijuana.”
The letter continued: “This [bill] would authorize conduct contrary to federal law and thus, would undermine the federal government’s efforts to regulate the possession, manufacturing, and trafficking of controlled substances. Accordingly, the Department could consider civil and criminal legal remedies regarding those who set up marijuana growing facilities and dispensaries as they will be doing so in violation of federal law. Others who knowingly facilitate the actions of the licensees, including property owners, landlords, and financiers should also know that their conduct violates federal law. In addition, state employees who conducted activities mandated by the Washington legislative proposals would not be immune from liability under the CSA.”
Gov. Gregoire said Friday that due to the department’s response, she would not sign the medical marijuana bill.
The DoJ’s policy, as stated to Gov. Gregoire, also applies to all marijuana sellers and government employees in those states as well.
So far, 15 states and the District of Columbia have licensed the production and sales of medical marijuana.
Stephen C. Webster is the senior editor of Raw Story, and is based out of Austin, Texas. He previously worked as the associate editor of The Lone Star Iconoclast in Crawford, Texas, where he covered state politics and the peace movement’s resurgence at the start of the Iraq war. Webster has also contributed to publications such as True/Slant, Austin Monthly, The Dallas Business Journal, The Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Weekly, The News Connection and others. Follow him on Twitter at @StephenCWebster.
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