What Will Holder Say About Medical Marijuana?


Attorney General Eric Holder, who a few weeks ago promised to clarify his department's position regarding medical marijuana, is expected to issue a new memo on the subject any day now. Yesterday Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), the ranking member (and former chairman) of the House Judiciary Committee, sent Holder a letter urging him to follow through on his signals of tolerance, despite recents threats to the contrary from U.S. attorneys:

My understanding is that you soon will be offering clarifying guidance about this policy. I was, and remain, very supportive of the Administration's policy in the Ogden memo, which respects the rights of states to provide safe access to medical marijuana….I hope you will continue to honor the spirit of that policy.

Reps. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.) sent Holder a similar letter the day before.

Holder's "clarification" may signal a retreat, saying that the October 2009 memo (PDF) to which Conyers refers was meant only to reassure patients, not providers. If so, Obama's policy will be essentially the same as Bush's. Alternatively, Holder could reaffirm his publicly stated position that state-licensed dispensaries need not worry about federal prosecution, at the risk of encouraging more such operations.