The Obama administration's Department of Justice may finally be taking a step back from its all-out assault on legal marijuana sales with the issuing of a memo from Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole. As Jacob Sullum reported earlier, the memo indicates that the feds will tolerate marijuana sales under certain conditions in states such as Colorado and Washington that have legalized it for recreational use.
Of course, anything in the memo is completely non-binding and can be revised at any time.
In a major shift in tone and policy, the DOJ has made it clear in this memo that the size, scope and profitability of a marijuana retailer should not affect enforcement priorities:
...in exercising prosecutorial discretion, prosecutors should not consider the size or commercial nature of a marijuana operation alone as a proxy for assessing whether marijuana trafficking implicates the Department's enforcement priorities listed above.
What are those "enforcement priorities"? Preventing sale to minors, cutting off gang and cartel funds, stopping sales over state lines, cracking down on marijuana sales used as a cover for harder drug sales, prosecuting the use of firearms in the distribution process, preventing "drugged driving," eradicating growth of marijuana on public lands, and prohibiting use of marijuana on federal property.
So what about the hundreds of medical marijuana users and distributors that the Obama administration has already prosecuted, people who did nothing to threaten any of the "enforcement priorities" listed above? According to a NORML survey of court records, the Obama administration has prosecuted 80 percent more medical marijuana cases than its predecessor. And as we've documented here before, the stated enemy of the DOJ in many of these cases is, yes, profit.
Take the case of medical marijuana dispensary operator Aaron Sandusky. This is a man who complied with California state law, paid his taxes, even worked with the FBI to bring down the corrupt mayor of his town! But because he ran three successful, profitable dispensaries he became a target and was raided on multiple occasions. Sandusky refused to close up shop, believing that the Constitution afforded Californians the opportunity to make their own laws.
"This is a Constitutional battle, and we're going to defend our rights," said Aaron Sandusky in an interview with Reason TV. "If I have to go to jail for 20 years defending this, then so be it," says Sandusky.
And go to jail he did. Sandusky now sits in a federal prison in Texas (prisons being too crowded in California), eight months into a 10-year sentence. He's not locked up for selling to minors, or selling heroin, or running guns, or funding cartels.
Aaron Sandusky is in prison for the size and commercial nature of his medical marijuana operation.
The instructions for Presidential commutation of federal prison sentences are freely available online.