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Calif. U.S. Attorney Defends Feds Medical Marijuana Crackdown

NBC News Los Angeles interviewed Andre Birotte Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California (Los Angeles) this weekend on the recent federal crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries, their landlords and banks that do business with them.

According to Birotte, the crackdowns are on those who are making a profit, which is against California law. He insists they are only going after the profiteers since they are not in compliance with state law. His soundbite: "The compassionate use act has turned into the commercial use act." [More...]

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DOJ Press Release on CA Medical Marijuana Crackdown

Here is the press release issued by the Department of Justice (Eastern District of California) today on the new federal crackdown on medical marijuana businesses: (Received by e-mail, no link yet.)

SACRAMENTO, Calif.October 7, 2011 – The four California-based United States Attorneys today announced coordinated enforcement actions targeting the illegal operations of the commercial marijuana industry in California. The statewide enforcement effort is aimed at curtailing the large, for-profit marijuana industry that has developed since the passage of California's Proposition 215 in 1996. That industry has swelled to include numerous drug-trafficking enterprises that operate commercial grow operations, intricate distribution systems and hundreds of marijuana stores across the state — even though the federal Controlled Substances Act makes illegal the sale and distribution of marijuana.

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Obama and Holder Then and Now on Medical Marijuana

In 2004, Barack Obama said the drug war was "an utter failure" and we need to rethink it.

In New Hampshire in 2007, he said he would not have the Justice Department prosecute medical marijuana.

Obama during the presidential campaign: He won't use Justice Department resources to circumvent state laws. He wants them to focus on violent crime and terrorism.

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Feds Target Calfornia Marijuana Dispensaries

The Department of Justice has sent a threatening letter to marijuana dispensaries in California. The Associated Press has obtained the letter and reports:

Federal prosecutors have launched a crackdown on pot dispensaries in California, warning the stores that they must shut down in 45 days or face criminal charges and confiscation of their property even if they are operating legally under the state's 15-year-old medical marijuana law.

There will be a press conference tomorrow at which California U.S. Attorneys announce the new crackdown. At least 16 dispensaries and landlords got the letter which says they are violating federal drug laws, regardless of whether they are in compliance with California law. [More...]

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IRS Denies Medical Marijuana Business Deductions

The IRS has now jumped into the fray of medical marijuana businesses -- including dispensaries operating legally under the laws of their states.

The IRS is asserting that dispensaries cannot deduct ordinary business expenses like salaries, rent and security costs.

Here are the letters the IRS has sent. Its position: [More...]

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DOJ's Ogden Memo on Medical Marijuana Goes Up in Smoke

The Department of Justice issued a new memo (available here) to federal prosecutors yesterday further "clarifying" its 2009 Ogden Memorandum. The Odgen memorandum (available here) said federal resources should not be used to prosecute those in "clear and unambiguous" compliance with state medical marijuana laws.

Sorry, the new memo says, that's not what we meant. We only meant federal resources shouldn't be used to prosecute cancer patients and other seriously ill people who used marijuana in compliance with state law. We never meant to provide a shield for those who supply medical marijuana to those in full compliance with state law.[More...]

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Federal Judge Orders Michigan to Supply DEA With Medical Marijuana Records

U.S. District Magistrate Judge Hugh Brenneman Jr. in Michigan has ordered the state to turn over medical marijuana records to the DEA for its use in a federal criminal investigation.

The DEA had issued administrative subpoenas to the Michigan Board of Community Health.

[H]e said that “while the Michigan Legislature declared its intent not to penalize the medical use of marijuana under state law, it had to acknowledge its action did not alter the existing federal prohibition against marijuana....The use of marijuana remains a federal felony.”

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Arizona Sues Feds Over Medical Marijuana

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer filed a federal declaratory action suit today against the Department of Justice, Eric Holder, U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke and some medical marijuana groups, asking the court to rule whether Arizona's medical marijuana law is valid when federal law prohibits it. The complaint is here and the exhibits with the letters from U.S. Attorneys and DOJ memos are here.

Despite the Governor's claimed and transparently false concern that Arizona's law puts state workers at risk of federal prosecution, medical marijuana advocates say the lawsuit is designed to thwart the state law. Yesterday, U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke said that despite the threat of the lawsuit, which now has been filed, medical marijuana in AZ is not at risk and Gov. Brewer is distorting the facts. [More....]

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WA Governor Vetoes Medical Marijuana Licensing Bill

DOJ's tricks are working. After the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington sent a letter to the legislature warning that passage of a medical marijuana licensing bill would subject state workers to federal prosecution, today Governor Christine Gregoire vetoed the bill, saying she was "swayed" by the letter. (Background on the almost identical letters sent by a number of U.S. attorneys in recent weeks in states where medical marijuana is legal is here.)

More U.S. Attorneys are jumping on the bandwagon. Today, it was the U.S. Attorney for Rhode Island, sending almost a verbatim letter, even though he hadn't been asked for his position.

And in Montana today, Governor Brian Schweitzer let the bill that passed the legislature this week restricting medical marijuana become law by doing nothing. His lame explanation: [More...]

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DEA Raids Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in Spokane

The DEA raided four medical marijuana dispensaries in Spokane, WA today. A map of those raided is here, courtesy of Radical Russ of NORML.

Here is the position of the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington, contained in an April 14 letter to the Washington legislature concerning on a proposed bill to establish a licensing scheme for marijuana growers and dispensaries: [More...]

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Montana Revises and Tightens Medical Marijuana Law

Montana has allowed medical marijuana since 2004. Today, the Senate joined the House in passing a reform bill. It now heads to the Governor. You can read the bill, SB 423 (SB0423.ENR) here. Among the key provisions:

  • The law repeals the existing Montana Medical Marijuana Act.
  • Lawmakers specified a list of debilitating medical conditions which qualify for a medical marijuana card and defined a standard of care that doctors must comply with to issue a card. The bill now prohibits telemedicine.
  • Lawmakers placed regulatory authority with the Department of Health.
  • The committee limited the number of plants a card-holder can have to 4 mature plants, 12 seedlings and 1 oz of usable marijuana.
  • The amended bill defines chronic pain and forces a patient to either have proof of pain or have 2 doctors certify a chronic pain patient.

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Federal Prosecutors Tighten Stance Against Medical Marijuana

The U.S. Attorney's office in Colorado is the latest one to advise state prosecutiorial agencies that it will continue to prosecute and impose sanctions against those involved in medical marijuana, despite the Ogden Memo and despite state law to the contrary.

Here are the actual letters, from Colorado Attorney General John Suthers to the legislature, from Colorado U.S. Attorney John Walsh to Suthers, and similar ones from U.S. Attorneys in Northern California, Hawaii, Eastern Washington and Montana. [More...]

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AZ Approves 579 Medical Marijuana Licenses in First Week

Arizona, which approved medical marijuana in November, began accepting applications from patients last week. The application process is done online. At the end of week 1, 579 of 718 applications were approved. Those rejected can re-apply. By the numbers:

About 78 percent of them were men, and the largest age group, at 37 percent, was people 51 and older. The next largest age group, at 22 percent, was people between 41 and 50 years old. Diseases reported included cancer, Hepatitis C, glaucoma, HIV/AIDS and Crohn's disease,

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Colorado About to Tinker With Medical Marijuana Caregiver Definition

The Colorado Board of Health is up to its old tricks, now trying to change the definition of caregiver in a way that will restrict patient choice and require patients to pay for unnecessary services. From Sensible Colorado:

Once again, the Colorado Health Department (CDPHE) has launched an attack on medical marijuana caregivers. Hiding behind the Attorney General’s questionable legal interpretation, the CDPHE has rejected the proposed definition of "caregiver" as put forward by the CDPHE Medical Marijuana Advisory Board. After studying the issue, the Advisory Board concluded that providing education about medical marijuana was sufficient to meet the definition of "caregiver".

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New Colorado Rules for Medical Marijuana Centers

The Colorado Department of Revenue has issued new rules relating to Medical Marijuana Centers (MMCs) in Colorado. They go into effect July 1, 2011. You can read the 77 pages of rules here.

Via e-mail received from Cannabis Therapy Center, which is still studying the rules, the Department of Revenue made some effort to comply with patient privacy and confidentiality but they fall short in some areas, for example: [More...]

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