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U.S. Attorneys Warn States About Potential Prosecution for Medical Marijuana Use

U.S. attorneys have issued letters to state officials addressing the illegality of medical marijuana. The letters were sent to several states (Washington, California, Colorado, Montana, and Rhode Island) warning them that everyone from licensed growers to regulators could be subjected to civil and criminal prosecution. These warnings have cause Washington and New Jersey to reassess their medical marijuana laws. Even though medical marijuana is still illegal under federal law, over a dozen states have enacted laws that make the substance legal within the state.

In 2009, Justice Department officials stated, “prosecutors should not focus federal resources on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.” Although public policy indicated that compliance with state law would not lead to federal prosecutions, the possibility of such action was not completely out of the question. These recent letters appear to institute a more aggressive policy, which is causing states to reevaluate laws and other issues regarding medical marijuana.

Gov. Chris Gregoire, governor of Washington and chair of the National Governors Association, intends to work with other governors in an attempt to change federal law to classify medical marijuana as a Schedule 2 substance, categorizing it with morphine or oxycodone. All in all, these federal letters have caused states to take a step back from the progress they have currently made with medical marijuana and are now becoming more hesitant to enact new laws do to the stronger possibility of federal prosecution, which is something the Obama administration originally claimed would not be an issue.

If you are a provider with questions regarding participation in the certification of patients for medical marijuana usage and compliance with state or federal law, including compliance with the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act or the Michigan Medical Marihuana Program, please contact at Wachler and Associates attorney at 248-544-0888.