U.S. Attorney Will Prosecute Dispensary Owners, Landlords who Rent to Dispensaries & State Employees Involved in State Medical Marijuana Laws

On April 13, 2011, Washington Governor Christine Gregoire sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder asking him if Washington state employees would be prosecuted for implementing Washington’s new medical marijuana law.  The next day, April 14, 2011, the U.S. Attorneys for the Eastern and Western Districts of Washington sent a letter to the Governor of Washington that contains a clear statement that the U.S. Attorney will prosecute people involved in the medical marijuana industry, including state workers who implement or oversee state medical marijuana laws.  The U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of California, Melinda Haag, sent a letter dated February 1, 2011, to the City of Oakland that also said that she would prosecute people involved in the “industrial growing of marijuana.”

These three U.S. Attorneys each said that they consulted with U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder about the state legal medical marijuana issue and that their letters state the U.S. Attorney General’s position   From these two recent letters it is apparent that the Department of Justice is giving a clear warning to everybody in the state legal medical marijuana business other than patients and caregivers that they risk prosecution for violating federal criminal laws involving marijuana.  DHS are you listening?  The text of the letter follows.

April 14, 2011

Honorable Christine Gregoire
Washington State Governor
P.O. Box 40002
Olympia, Washington 98504-0002

Re: Medical Marijuana Legislative Proposals

Dear Honorable Governor Gregoire:

We write in response to your letter dated April 13, 20 11, seeking guidance from the Attorney General and our two offices concerning the practical effect of the legislation currently being considered by the Washington State Legislature concerning medical marijuana. We understand that the proposals being considered by the Legislature would establish a licensing scheme for marijuana growers and dispensaries, and for processors of marijuana-infused foods among other provisions. We have consulted with the Attorney General and the Deputy Attorney General about the proposed legislation. This letter is written to ensure there is no confusion regarding the Department of Justice’s view of such a licensing scheme.

As the Department has stated on many occasions, Congress has determined that marijuana is a controlled substance. Congress placed marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and, as such, growing, distributing, and possessing marijuana in any capacity, other than as part of a federally authorized research program, is a violation of federal law regardless of state laws permitting such activities.

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. This core priority includes prosecution of business enterprises that unlawfully market and sell marijuana. Accordingly, while the Department does not focus its limited resources on seriously ill individuals who use marijuana as part of a medically recommended treatment regimen in compliance with state law as stated in the October 2009 Ogden Memorandum, we maintain the authority to enforce the CSA vigorously against individuals and organizations that participate in unlawful manufacturing and distribution activity involving marijuana, even if such activities are permitted under state law. The Department’s investigative and prosecutorial resources will continue to be directed toward these objectives.

Consistent with federal law, the Department maintains the authority to pursue criminal or civil actions for any CSA violations whenever the Department determines that such legal action is warranted. This includes, but is not limited to, actions to enforce the criminal provisions of the CSA such as:

– 21 U.S.C. § 841 (making it illegal to manufacture, distribute, or possess with intent to distribute any controlled substance including marijuana);

– 21 U.S.C. § 856 (making it unlawful to knowingly open, lease, rent, maintain, or use property for the manufacturing, storing, or distribution of controlled substances);

– 21 U.S.C. § 860 (making it unlawful to distribute or manufacture controlled substances within 1,000 feet of schools, colleges, playgrounds, and public housing facilities, and within 100 feet of any youth centers, public swimming pools, and video arcade facilities);

– 21 U.S.C. § 843 (making it unlawful to use any communication facility to commit felony violations of the CSA); and

– 21 U.S.C. § 846 (making it illegal to conspire to commit any of the crimes set forth in the CSA).

In addition, Federal money laundering and related statutes which prohibit a variety of different types of financial activity involving the movement of drug proceeds may likewise be utilized. The Government may also pursue civil injunctions, and the forfeiture of drug proceeds, property traceable to such proceeds, and property used to facilitate drug violations.

The Washington legislative proposals will create a licensing scheme that permits large-scale marijuana cultivation and distribution. This 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. Potential actions the Department could consider include injunctive actions to prevent cultivation and distribution of marijuana and other associated violations of the CSA; civil fines; criminal prosecution; and the forfeiture of any property used to facilitate a violation of the CSA. As the Attorney General has repeatedly stated, the Department of Justice remains firmly committed to enforcing the CSA in all states.

We hope this letter assists the State of Washington and potential licensees in making informed decisions regarding the cultivation, manufacture, and distribution of marijuana.

Very truly yours,

Jenny A. Durkan
United States Attorney
Western District of Washington

Michael C. Ormsby
United States Attorney
Eastern District of Washington

By |2012-05-12T15:24:06-07:00April 27th, 2011|Federal Dispensary Attacks, Marijuana Crimes, Stories & Articles|Comments Off on U.S. Attorney Will Prosecute Dispensary Owners, Landlords who Rent to Dispensaries & State Employees Involved in State Medical Marijuana Laws

N.J. Attorney General asks Obama Administration if N.J. Medical Marijuana Program Violates U.S. Law

NJ.com:  “The debate over the legality of medical marijuana in two western states has prompted State Attorney General Paula Dow to ask the Obama administration whether New Jersey’s future program could violate federal law.  Dow’s office sent a letter late today to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder asking him to clarify whether those licensed to grow or sell pot — as well as the state workers who will administer the program when it launches later this year — could face arrest.”  The letter said in part:

“As the state’s chief legal adviser to all of the departments in the Executive Branch, many of which are participating in carrying out the medical marijuana legislation, it is critical that I properly advise them as to the potential criminal and civil ramifications of their actions in carrying out their duties,” according to Dow’s letter.  Accordingly, I ask that you provide me with clear guidance as to the enforcement position of the Department of Justice relative to New Jersey’s medical marijuana legislation and the scope of the entities and individuals who may be subject to civil suit or criminal prosecution,”

This request is a major development in the state legal medical marijuana industry.  Will the U.S. Attorney General answer the questions posed by the N.J. Attorney General?  If so, the U.S. Attorney General’s answer could potentially kill the entire industry.  Eric Holder is being asked to fish or cut bait.  The Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne and the Attorney Generals of the other states that have legalized medical marijuana should get on the band wagon and send similar requests to Eric Holder.

A related story in the Arizona Republic today headlined “Medical marijuana: Federal pressure stirs legal confusion” discusses the implications arising from the fact that people involved in state legal medical marijuana industry are also violating federal criminal marijuana laws.

“Threatened medical-marijuana crackdowns by federal prosecutors in other states have stoked fears about whether state employees, dispensary owners and others could be punished for operating under Arizona’s fledgling law. . . . Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke’s office says it will offer guidance this week for state officials. . . . The uncertainty surrounding the new state law increased reluctance for landlords to lease to dispensaries and unsettled state Department of Health Services workers. . . . Washington’s U.S. attorneys said the legislation appears to violate federal law and could put state workers at risk for prosecution. . . . Earlier this month, Michael Ormsby, U.S. attorney for Washington’s Eastern District, sent notices to 40 property owners that house dispensaries, warning that they could be violating drug-trafficking laws.  Ormsby told the landlords to evict the tenants within 30 days or face the risk of prosecution.”

The U.S. Attorney should not leave the state legal medical marijuana industry in the dark.  Too many people have invested their valuable time, money and resources in the states that have legalized marijuana and they deserve to know if they will be prosecuted or not.  The need to know is especially important in a state like Arizona that recently legalized medical marijuana, but has not yet have any dispensaries.  Mr. Holder, if you intend to prosecute owners of Arizona medical marijuana dispensaries and their employees, tell them now before they spend substantial amounts of money and violate the law.  It’s your duty!  If you intend to prosecute dispensary owners and/or state employees involved in implementing or administering state legal medical marijuana laws, tell them now and you will be preventing the future violation of federal laws and the need to prosecute violators.

By |2011-04-21T07:36:27-07:00April 21st, 2011|Marijuana Crimes, Stories & Articles|Comments Off on N.J. Attorney General asks Obama Administration if N.J. Medical Marijuana Program Violates U.S. Law

California Medical Marijuana Activist Convicted of Selling Pot in His Dispensary Speaks of Legal Battle

North County Times:  “Two years ago, James Stacy operated a martial arts studio in Vista.  Then he opened a medical marijuana dispensary in the same building.  Within 10 weeks, he landed in federal jail.  Stacy fought federal criminal charges, lost, and now, with a felony drug conviction, is without a full-time job or significant income.  But along the way, he said, he found a new calling: activism.”

By |2015-04-06T18:51:46-07:00April 5th, 2011|California News, Federal Dispensary Attacks, Marijuana Crimes|Comments Off on California Medical Marijuana Activist Convicted of Selling Pot in His Dispensary Speaks of Legal Battle

2 West Hollywood Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Raided by Federal Agents

Los Angeles Times:  “Federal drug enforcement agents Tuesday raided two West Hollywood medical marijuana stores in the first such action in the city since the Obama administration decided two years ago to take a hands-off approach to dispensaries that abide by state laws. The dispensaries — Alternative Herbal Health Services and Zen Healing on Santa Monica Boulevard — are among four that the city has authorized to operate. . . . The DEA raided five of six dispensaries in West Hollywood in 2007, but has left the city’s stores alone since then.”

By |2012-05-12T15:26:27-07:00March 17th, 2011|California News, Federal Dispensary Attacks, Marijuana Crimes, Video|Comments Off on 2 West Hollywood Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Raided by Federal Agents

Marijuana in Arizona

Jon Gettman , Ph.D., wrote a scholarly paper called “Marijuana in Arizona, Arrests, Usage, and Related Data.”  The article contains statistics and information about the criminal aspect of marijuana use in Arizona.  It states:

“There were 21,727 arrests for marijuana offenses in Arizona in 2007, representing an arrest rate of 343 per 100,000, which ranks Arizona at number 16 in the nation. There were an estimated 473,000 past year marijuana users in Arizona during 2007. Reconciling this estimate with the number of arrests for marijuana offenses provides an arrest rate of 4,593 per 100,000 users, which ranks Arizona at number 14 in the nation.

In terms of overall severity of maximum sentences for marijuana possession, Arizona ranks number 12 in the nation (based on penalties for a first offense). When it comes to penalties for just under 1 ounce of marijuana, Arizona is ranked at number 2 . . .. Here are the penalties for possession of various amounts of marijuana in Arizona:”

By |2019-06-14T08:24:50-07:00November 21st, 2010|Marijuana Crimes, Stories & Articles|Comments Off on Marijuana in Arizona