Thursday, March 19, 2009

AG Holder Announces Major Shift in Drug Enforcement Policy

It’s official. The Obama administration has announced it has no plans to prosecute marijuana dispensaries in California and other states. The move represents a significant shift away from the Bush administration’s stance on the issue. Here are stories from the LA Times and New York Times; click here for a previous LB post on the issue.

The news came straight from the mouth of Attorney General Eric Holder, who said Wednesday in a sit-down with reporters that the new administration would target outlets operating in violation of both federal and state law, such as those being used as fronts for drug dealers. “Those are the organizations, the people, that we will target,” the attorney general said.

In the Bush administration, federal agents raided medical marijuana distributors that violated federal statutes even if the dispensaries appeared to be complying with state laws.

President Obama indicated during the campaign that, under his leadership, the nation’s drug-enforcement policies would change. But soon after his inauguration, the DEA raided several dispensaries in California, in what appeared to be a continuation of earlier policies.

Those raids, however, may well become a thing of the past. “If you are operating a medical marijuana clinic that is actually a front, we’ll come after you,” one DOJ official told the LAT. “But if you are operating within the law, we are not going to prioritize our resources to go after them.”

Law Blog Reading Recommendation: For a wonderful introduction to the world of California’s marijuana dispensaries, we suggest checking out David Samuels’s really nice piece in the New Yorker, from last July. Here’s the story’s wonderful second paragraph:

It was now three o’clock in the afternoon, and Captain Blue was dozing after a copious inhalation of purified marijuana vapor. (His nickname is an homage to his favorite variety of bud.) His hair was black and greasy, and was spread across his pillow. On the front of his purple T-shirt, which had slid up to expose his round belly, were the words “Big Daddy.” With his arm wrapped around a three-foot-long green bong, he resembled a large, contented baby who has fallen asleep with his milk bottle.

Captain Blue is a pot broker. . . .