President Obama defended his administration’s blatant flip flop when it comes to enforcing federal laws on medical marijuana dispensaries, saying he can’t ask the Justice Department to ignore federal law.
In 2008 candidate Obama said that he would not use federal resources to “try and circumvent state laws about medical marijuana.”
Attorney General Eric Holder later wrote in a 2009 memo that users and dispensaries that comply with state and local laws would not be a priority for the Justice Department.
More than 100 dispensaries have been raided by federal prosecutors in the last 3 years.
In 2010, Holder reversed course writing that his department would “vigorously enforce” federal laws after a ballot initiative in California sought, unsuccessfully, to legalize marijuana.
In an interview, with Rolling Stone the president said the following:
“I can’t nullify congressional law. What I specifically said was that we were not going to prioritize prosecutions of persons who are using medical marijuana.”
“I never made a commitment that somehow we were going to give carte blanche to large-scale producers and operators of marijuana, and the reason is, because it’s against federal law.” he added.
Federal prosecutors have targeted dispensaries in California, Colorado and other states.
Rep. Jared Polis (D-Colo.), a supporter of eliminating restrictions on medical marijuana dispensaries, said that federal prosecutors should yield to state laws governing the businesses.
“The Justice Department has repeatedly made clear that dispensaries that are in compliance with state law are not an enforcement priority,” Polis said in a statement. “Colorado’s tough system of medical marijuana regulation is the best way to keep drugs out of the hands of minors.”
Obama also said during the interview that ”large-scale, commercial” marijuana businesses that might supply both medical and recreational users present a problem for law enforcement.
“In that situation, we put the Justice Department in a very difficult place if we’re telling them, ‘This is supposed to be against the law, but we want you to turn the other way,’ ” he said.
“That’s not something we’re going to do.”
Too bad that’s exactly what he said they would do.
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