After several false starts, the Obama administration is making all the right noises on federal medical marijuana policy.
Federal drug agents won't pursue pot-smoking patients or their sanctioned suppliers in states that allow medical marijuana, under new legal guidelines to be issued Monday by the Obama administration. Two Justice Department officials described the new policy to The Associated Press, saying prosecutors will be told it is not a good use of their time to arrest people who use or provide medical marijuana in strict compliance with state law.The guidelines to be issued by the department do, however, make it clear that agents will go after people whose marijuana distribution goes beyond what is permitted under state law or use medical marijuana as a cover for other crimes, the officials said.The new policy is a significant departure from the Bush administration, which insisted it would continue to enforce federal anti-pot laws regardless of state codes.
The devil is in the details, of course, and how the policy is enforced (or not). But it represents the most compassionate and sensible policy to come out of Washington in a very long time.
For a damning look at medical marijuana policies that started up Bill Clinton and continued under Bush, all while harming patients and doing nothing to combat the drug trade, watch "Raiding California" from Reason.tv:
Update: Even as the feds seem about to pull back, local and state police in Southern California are stepping. From the AP:
Los Angeles County District Attorney Steve Cooley said last week he wants to shutter clinics that sell pot for profit. Cooley's plan is the latest salvo in a prolonged conflict in California over whether medical marijuana is truly having its intended effect or is being abused by the larger population.
Until recently, raids on clinics typically led to federal prosecutions, but Cooley's remarks and similar ones from Attorney General Jerry Brown signal a new approach to clear the haze left by Proposition 215, the 1996 state ballot measure that allowed sick people with referrals from doctors and an identification card to smoke pot.