Obama Administration Douses States' Medical Pot

Wednesday, 04 May 2011 04:13 PM

By Martin Gould

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The Obama administration is cracking down on states that allow medical marijuana, even prosecuting public officials involved in setting up dispensaries, USA Today reports. The new stance comes as more states consider decriminalizing the drug if it is used for medical reasons.

medical marijuana, states, federal, Obama"The landscape is changing out there. They are suggesting they are not going to stand down," said Gov. Chris Gregoire of Washington, who vetoed plans to set up licensed dispensaries in her state after two federal raids in Spokane.

In a letter to Gregoire, Washington state’s two U.S. attorneys warned state employees could be prosecuted, a move legal experts say would be “extraordinary if not unprecedented.”

The federal threats have put a damper on plans to legalize the drug in New Jersey. "Those letters raised serious questions about legal jeopardy," Gov. Chris Christie’s spokesman said.

Since 2009, the federal government has worked under a policy that it should not spend money and resources prosecuting cases which have been legalized under state law. But now that is changing.

"We maintain the authority to enforce [federal law] vigorously against individuals and organizations that participate in unlawful manufacturing and distribution activity involving marijuana, even if such activities are permitted under state law," says the new memo to the states.

Justice Department spokeswoman Tracy Schmaler said: "We will not tolerate drug traffickers who hide behind claims of compliance with state law to mask activities that are clearly illegal."

About a dozen states now allow medical marijuana, with about half of them regulating dispensaries. Proponents say marijuana can help ease several conditions including glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, lung and brain cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.

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