Medical Marijuana Update … Update

The United States Department of Justice has issued a press release on the changes to the prosecution of medical marijuana providers.  According to Attorney General Holder,

“This balanced policy formalizes a sensible approach that the Department has been following since January: effectively focus our resources on serious drug traffickers while taking into account state and local laws.”

The release also contains a link to the Guidelines memo, which can be found here.  An example of an inefficient use of federal resources is provided in the memo:

As a general matter, pursuit of these priorities should not focus federal resources in your States on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana. For example, prosecution of individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses who use marijuana as part of a recommended treatment regimen consistent with applicable state law, or those caregivers in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state law who provide such individuals with marijuana, is unlikely to be an efficient use of limited federal resources.”

However, if the individual is not in clear and unambiguous compliance, that individual could still face federal prosecution.

Medical Marijuana Legalized. Sorta.

Earlier this week, Attorney General Eric Holder announced at a press conference that the United States Department of Justice would no longer prosecute individuals for providing medical marijuana.  (Lots o’ links here.  The text of the press conference, however, is not online as of this posting, but C-Span has video of the conference here.  According to the Huffington Post, the exchange occures at about the 25:00 point.)

According to most reports, the policy is to stop raiding growers of legitimate medical marijuana in the states that have legalized medical marijuana.  However, if the grow operation is just a front, then all bets are off–such growers may still get prosecuted.  And, according NPR’s Weekend Edition, enforcement is still a confused situation, even in the states where it has been legalized, such as Maine.

Marijuana is a tricky drug.  According to the United States Congress, tetrahydrocannibols (THC is how this is shortened, and it’s the active chemical in marijuana) are Schedule I drugs, which “has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and that there is a lack of accepted safety for use of the drug or other substance under medical supervision.”  21 U.S.C. § 812.  However, one has to possess with the intent to distribute an awful lot of marijuana (1000 kilograms or 1000 plants) to be subject to the same punishment as possessing with the intent to distribute, say, 50 grams of crack.  So clearly, the perceived “danger” of marijuana is far less than the perceived “danger” of other controlled substances.  Furthermore, with certain states approving medical marijuana for certain circumstances, what does that have to say about “no currently accepted medical use”?

Anyway, this isn’t about whether marijuana is good or not, or whether it should be illegal or not.  It’s just information about an apparent policy shift that I happen to think is a positive step in the right direction.

Obama’s National Security Team

So the big story this morning, reported by Bloomberg (and thousands of other outlets), is that President-elect Obama has named his nominees for his “national security” team.  This includes: Senator Hillary Clinton for Secretary of State; current Secretary of Defense Robert Gates for Secretary of Defense; retired Marine General James L. Jones for National Security Advisor; Arizona Governor Janet Napolitano to head up the Department of Homeland Security; Susan Rice as U.N. Ambassador; and Eric Holder for Attorney General.

What’s interesting is how the Department of Justice has been conceptually moved into the realm of “national security.”  It’s not necessarily an inappropriate fit, but it is interesting that an organization tasked with enforcing civil rights and dealing with antitrust issues is being called a national security component.

Gitmo Releases

The New York Times (and hundreds of others) is reporting that five individuals being held at Guantanamo Bay have been ordered to be released.  District Judge Richard J. Leon is overseeing the first challenges brought by individuals who have been held at Guantanamo Bay, and he has ruled that five of the first six who have brought such challenges have been held for seven years without any justification other than intelligence purposes.  It should be noted that Judge Leon is a Bush appointee who previously ruled against the detainees the first time their case came around.  (The sixth man was deemed to have provided support to al Qaeda.)

Judge Leon ordered the men to be released “forthwith,” and urged the United States not to appeal, but I suspect that an appeal will come.  Of course, things could get shaken up quite a bit if Eric Holder is named as Attorney General and he gets confirmed for the post, because he is on record as being very outspoken against the maintenance of Guantanamo Bay.  (See this ABC blog for a little more info.)