Guidelines for Federal Prosecution of State Pot Laws

In a memo to US Attorneys the Department of Justice gave eight guidelines for federal prosecution of state pot laws.  The effect is that states that have legalized marijuana for recreational or medicinal purposes can now create and enforce regulations for the use and distribution of marijuana.  From the memo:

“The Department’s guidance in this memorandum rests on its expectation that states and local governments that have enacted laws authorizing marijuana-related conduct will implement strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems that will address the threat those state laws could pose to public safety, public health and other law enforcement interests. A system adequate to that task must not only contain robust controls and procedures on paper; it must also be effective in practice.”

Eight Guidelines for Federal Prosecutors

The memo  outlines eight guidelines for federal prosecutors when enforcing federal marijuana laws. The Department of Justice will still prosecute individuals or entities to prevent:

  • the distribution of marijuana to minors;
  • revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises, gangs and cartels;
  • the diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal under state law in some form to other states;
  • state-authorized marijuana activity from being used as a cover or pretext for the trafficking of other illegal drugs or other illegal activity;
  • violence and the use of firearms in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana
  • drugged driving and the exacerbation of other adverse public health consequences associated with marijuana use;
  • growing of marijuana on public lands and the attendant public safety and environmental dangers posed by marijuana production on public lands;
  • preventing marijuana possession or use on federal property.

Summary:  Marijuana is still illegal as far as the feds are concerned.

Federal marijuana laws remain in place and prosecutors now have guidelines to use when considering whether to prosecute a person federally that complies with state pot laws..  Although state regulators may breath a sigh of relief when creating regulations for legal marijuana everyone should realize that these are guidelines can are not mandatory and can change at a whim.  It will be especially interesting to see if the next US Attorney General, after Eric Holder, continues this program.   In the meantime, make sure you consult an attorney if you are unclear on the law.  In Maryland you can call Baltimore area pot lawyer David D. Nowak.

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