DEA Says it Has a Policy of Not Arresting Medical Marijuana Patients

Submitted by smorgan on
Months ago, Judiciary Committee chairman John Conyers (D-MI) sent a pointed inquiry to the DEA demanding an accounting of the costs and methodology behind the federal raids against medical marijuana dispensaries in California. DEA’s response (pdf) recently became available and contains some interesting information, including this:

DEA does not investigate or target individual "patients" who use cannabis, but instead the Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTOs) involved in marijuana trafficking.
Again, the agency does not target individual users who are
engaged in "simple possession" of the drug - even though they too are violating federal law and entitled to no immunity.

It’s not really news that DEA avoids arresting patients, but it’s remarkable to see it in writing. This serves to remind us that DEA in fact bears no legal obligation whatsoever to enforce federal marijuana laws in states that have approved medical use. The organization’s enforcement priorities with regards to medical marijuana are shaped by politics, not a sense of legal obligation, thus patients have been quietly left off the battlefield in recognition of the obscene PR fiasco that would result if they were visibly targeted. Keep this in mind if Obama’s pledge to end medical marijuana raids is met with resistance from anyone who claims that "federal law must be enforced."

DEA’s concession also helps to illuminate the complete incoherence of any argument that state-level marijuana reforms are rendered impotent in the face of incongruous federal drug laws. Such reforms have enormous practical value by dramatically reducing the threat of arrest and conviction under state laws, which have always been the only real threat facing individual users.

This acknowledgment should end debate over the importance of state-level marijuana reform.

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