In 2008 DOJ prosecutors, asked the DOJ for advise on
what is a legal/illegal medical pot dispensary.
In 2009, DOJ, Deputy Attorney General, David Ogden,
responded by issuing a memo that states that DOJ
"prosecutors should not focus investigative resources on
patients who have cancer or are seriously ill and their
'caregivers' if they are complying with state medical
The 2009 memo continues, but "on the other hand, prosecution of
commercial enterprises that unlawfully market and sell
marijuana for profit continues to be an
enforcement priority of the DOJ."
In 2010 Ogden's sucessor James Cole, clarified Ogden's 2009
memo saying it
was "never intended to to shield" all people who "knowingly
violations of the Controplled Substances Act.
Cole also noted in his memo that since the 2009 Ogden memo,
several states considered or enacted laws authorizing
multiple large-scale, privately operated industrial
marijuana cultivation centers, (which) are in violation of
federal drug law" and hence are illegal under federal law.
Cole also clarified what the term "caregiver"
means in the 2009 memo:
"The term "caregiver" as used in the 2009 memorandum meant
just that: individuals providing care to individuals with
cancer or other serious illnesses, not commercial
operations cultivating, selling or distributing
Hence, these memos clearly show that commerical
medical marijuana for profit
were never to be shielded from federal prosecution by
In a interview with Rolling Stone Magazine on medical pot
President Obama said in the
RS May 10, 2012 issue: (See page 2)
Let me ask you about the War on Drugs. You vowed in 2008,
when you were running for election, that you would not "use
Justice Department resources to try and circumvent state laws
about medical marijuana." Yet we just ran a story that shows
your administration is launching more raids on medical pot than
the Bush administration did. What's up with that?
Here's what's up: What I specifically said was that we were
not going to prioritize prosecutions of persons who are using
medical marijuana. I never made a commitment that somehow we
were going to give carte blanche to large-scale producers and
operators of marijuana and the reason is, because it's against
federal law. I can't nullify congressional law. I can't ask
the Justice Department to say, "Ignore completely a federal
law that's on the books." What I can say is, "Use your
prosecutorial discretion and properly prioritize your
resources to go after things that are really doing folks
damage." As a consequence, there haven't been prosecutions of
users of marijuana for medical purposes.
The only tension that's come up and this gets hyped up a lot
is a murky area where you have large-scale, commercial
operations that may supply medical marijuana users, but
in some cases may also be supplying recreational users.
In that situation, we put the Justice Department
in a very difficult place if we're telling them,
"This is supposed to be against the law, but we want
you to turn the other way." That's not something we're
going to do. I do think it's important and useful to
have a broader debate about our drug laws. One of
the things we've done over the past three years was to
make a sensible change when it came to the disparity in
sentencing between crack cocaine and powder cocaine.
We've had a discussion about how to focus on treatment,
taking a public-health approach to drugs and lessening
the overwhelming emphasis on criminal laws as a tool to
deal with this issue. I think that's an appropriate
debate that we should have.
Barbara Walters interview Dec 14, 2012
Do you think that marijuana should be legalized?
Well, I wouldn’t go that far. But what I think is that,
at this point, Washington and Colorado, you’ve seen
the voters speak on this issue. And as it is, the
federal government has a lot to do when it comes to
criminal prosecutions. It does not make sense from a
prioritization point of view for us to focus on
recreational drug users in a state that has already
said that under state law that’s legal.
...this is a tough problem because Congress has not
yet changed the law. I head up the executive branch;
we’re supposed to be carrying out laws. And so what
we’re going to need to have is a conversation about
how do you reconcile a federal law that still says
marijuana is a federal offense and state laws that
say that it’s legal.
When you’re talking about drug kingpins, folks involved with
violence, people are who are
peddling hard drugs to our kids in our neighborhoods
that are devastated, there is no doubt that we need
to go after those folks hard it makes sense for us
to look at how we can make sure that our kids are
discouraged from using drugs and engaging in
substance abuse generally. There is more work
we can do on the public health side and the treatment side.