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

WA US Attorney Says Marijuana Dispensaries / Stores Violate Federal Law

Here is the text of a press release issued on April 6, 2011, by U.S. Attorney Michael Ormsby (Eastern District of Washington):

Spokane – Today, Michael C. Ormsby, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, announced that he has notified landlords that marijuana stores are illegal and warned them of the penalties they may face. Marijuana continues to be prohibited by federal law and specifically marijuana stores are subject to enforcement action and stringent federal penalties. Under federal law, the possession or distribution of marijuana remains illegal, despite state law.

In 2001, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Drug Enforcement Administration thoroughly analyzed the relevant medical, scientific, and abuse data and concluded that marijuana continues to meet the criteria for placement in schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act. The Food and Drug Administration reiterated this determination in April 2006, stating in a news release:

Marijuana is listed in schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA), the most restrictive schedule. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which administers the CSA, continues to support that placement and FDA concurred because marijuana met the three criteria for placement in Schedule I under 21 U.S.C. 812(b)(1) (e.g., marijuana has a high potential for abuse, has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and has a lack of accepted safety for use under medical supervision). Furthermore, there is currently sound evidence that smoked marijuana is harmful. A past evaluation by several Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) agencies, including the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) and National Institute for Drug Abuse (NIDA), concluded that no sound scientific studies supported medical use of marijuana for treatment in the United States, and no animal or human data supported the safety or efficacy of marijuana for general medical use. There are alternative FDA-approved medications in existence for treatment of many of the proposed uses of smoked marijuana.

* * *

FDA has not approved smoked marijuana for any condition or disease indication.

* * *

Accordingly, FDA, as the federal agency responsible for reviewing the safety and efficacy of drugs, DEA as the federal agency charged with enforcing the CSA, and the Office of National Drug Control Policy, as the federal coordinator of drug control policy, do not support the use of smoked marijuana for medical purposes.

The Office of National Drug Control Policy supports multi-faceted prevention and treatment programs and firmly opposes the legalization of marijuana and all illegal drug use.

The voters approved a ballot initiative in 1998, which removed the state-level criminal penalties for physician prescribed marijuana. In November 2008, the state adopted a rule that authorized a 60 day supply of no more than 24 ounces and no more than 15 plants of marijuana. “The proliferation of marijuana stores, which are not authorized under state law, suggests that drug traffickers are attempting to avoid application of state law through the use of these stores,” U.S. Attorney Mike Ormsby stated. “Drug traffickers cannot hide behind the law by simply claiming they are medical marijuana stores,” said Mr. Ormsby. According to information gathered by drug enforcement authorities, there are currently over 40 stores in Spokane County alone, more than any other county in the State. Many of these stores are located close to schools, parks, and playgrounds where children are often present. “Additionally, many of these stores are conducting a high volume, high dollar business, far from the allegations of the operators that they are furnishing marijuana to “patients” with debilitating medical conditions,” added Mr. Ormsby.

Our goal is to first seek voluntary compliance with the law by notifying property owners of the non-conforming use of their property, with the expectation that they take appropriate action. If they do not, the U.S. Attorney’s Office will determine the appropriate law enforcement response, which could include the forfeiture of the property used to facilitate the crimes,” said Mr. Ormsby.

There are two targets to our enforcement action; the operators of the stores and the owners of the real property where the stores operate. The property owners have been notified of the penalties associated with renting property to those operating the stores, as they may be unaware of the ramifications of such action. Mr. Ormsby said he hopes that notice to the landlords will lead to voluntary compliance and eviction of those illegally distributing marijuana.

On the other hand, “we are preparing for quick and direct action against the operators of the stores,” Mr. Ormsby said. “We intend to use the full extent of our legal remedies to enforce the law.”

Here’s a link to the actual press release.

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

By |2015-04-06T18:51:47-07:00April 27th, 2011|Federal Dispensary Attacks, Marijuana Crimes, Stories & Articles|Comments Off on WA US Attorney Says Marijuana Dispensaries / Stores Violate Federal Law

WA US Attorney Threatens Crackdown if Medical-pot Makeover Becomes Law in WA

Seattle Times:  “Washington’s top federal prosecutors have threatened to crack down if the state goes forward with a proposal to legalize medical-marijuana dispensaries and growers, putting in jeopardy a bill that has already passed both chambers of the Legislature.  In a letter to Gov. Chris Gregoire on Thursday, U.S. Attorneys Jenny Durkan of Seattle and Michael Ormsby of Spokane wrote that the bill would undermine drug enforcement and could result in an array of prosecutions or civil penalties against dispensary owners and growers, as well as against state regulators enforcing the proposed law.”

See “WA US Attorneys Say Marijuana Dispensaries / Stores Violate Federal Law.

When, if ever, will the U.S. Attorney for Arizona tell the potential medical marijuana patients, caregivers, dispensaries and others in Arizona’s newest industry that they are safe from federal criminal prosecution if the strictly comply with Arizona’s medical marijuana laws and rules or that they will be prosecuted despite the fact they comply with Arizona’s laws and rules?

By |2012-05-12T15:24:31-07:00April 27th, 2011|Federal Dispensary Attacks, Marijuana Crimes, Stories & Articles|Comments Off on WA US Attorney Threatens Crackdown if Medical-pot Makeover Becomes Law in WA