In a letter to the United States Attorney Eric Holder dated May 9, 2011, the American Civil Liberties Association (ACLU) expressed “deep concerns about recent threatening letters from several United States Attorneys from across the country regarding the potential initiation of federal prosecutions against persons who are complying with state medical marijuana laws.” The letter says in part:
“We further assume that the low priority status extends not only to patients, but also those who license and distribute medical marijuana in full compliance with state laws that are designed to protect public safety by ensuring an orderly and appropriately circumscribed distribution process for medical marijuana.
The recent U.S. Attorneys’ letters also reflect a policy of obstructionism in the face of the complex and evolving issue of medical marijuana, which nearly one-third of the states have now decriminalized in recognition of the unique and substantive benefit this drug provides to patients with certain serious conditions. The states to which the recent U.S. Attorneys’ letters have been directed have wisely recognized not only the needs of patients and the value of marijuana as a medicine, but also the need for a rational distribution scheme that channels this drug to humanitarian uses without contributing to a black market. As a policy matter, the same protections that extend to patients should also be extended to state-licensed distributors or state employees who are in clear compliance with state law. The laws of the affected states further recognize that it is not enough to permit patients to use the medicine; there must be a mechanism for growing and distributing medicine that provides a safe method of access. The state laws and detailed regulations implementing distribution promote both public health and public safety. The U.S. Attorneys’ implied threats of prosecution against those who are merely following state law are thus inconsistent with the administration’s announced intention to end the “war” on drugs and adopt a public health approach to drug policy.”