Today the Drug Enforcement Administration issued a statement suggesting that the Justice Department's new medical marijuana guidelines will not amount to much in practice:
These guidelines do not legalize marijuana. It is not the practice or policy of DEA to target individuals with serious medical conditions who comply with state laws authorizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes. Consistent with the DOJ guidelines, we will continue to identify and investigate any criminal organization or individual who unlawfully grows, markets or distributes marijuana or other dangerous drugs.
You could dismiss this stance as an attempt to save face. But as I argued here last week (and in my syndicated column this week), disagreements about who is allowed to grow and distribute medical marijuana and under what circumstances, especially in California, will continue to provide excuses for DEA raids. It's true that the agency, by and large, has not targeted "individuals with serious medical conditions who comply with state laws authorizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes." Instead it has targeted the people who supply those patients with marijuana (who often are patients themselves). With the possible exception of a "primary caregiver" who grows a few plants for a particular patient and does not charge for the service, it's not clear that the DEA or the Justice Department is prepared to tolerate any method of providing marijuana to patients who are not up to growing it for themselves.
[Thanks to LEAP's Tom Angell for the tip.]