You don't have to sell or distribute marijuana to have a target on your back. It's easier to go after landlords. Prosecutors have to prove defendants guilty beyond reasonable doubt in criminal court, but asset forfeiture law allows the government to seize property in civil court.
Laura Duffy, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of California, has said that she is ready to go after newspapers, radio stations and other outlets that run ads for medical marijuana shops, because federal law targets those who place ads for illegal substances. Duffy told California Watch, "I am willing to read (the law) expansively, and if a court wants to more narrowly define it, that would be up to the court."
Nadelmann told me that he now thinks Obama is as bad as his predecessors when it comes to the drug war. One could argue that Obama is worse; President George W. Bush didn't go after newspapers.
In 1996, Californians voted to legalize medical marijuana; as of today, 15 other states have followed suit. In 2008, Obama respected states' rights. In 2011, his administration is ready to bulldoze its 2009 advisory that the feds not pick on sick people.
Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., protested that the ATF memo is unacceptable because "law-abiding citizens would be stripped of their Second Amendment rights simply because they hold a state-issued card authorizing the possession and use of marijuana for medicinal purposes."
Nadelmann cannot understand why the Obama Justice Department is willing to alienate real estate agents, property owners, gun owners and the Democratic base. "Typically, as an advocate," he said, "your best opportunities emerge when the other side overreaches."
I've talked to folks in law enforcement who stew over medical marijuana businesses serving as fronts for criminal enterprises. But now the administration is threatening to go after cancer patients who own guns and small businesses that rent to marijuana shops. They are going after people whom they do not consider to be criminals.
That's why some states decided to pass medical marijuana laws in the first place. They do not want the heavy boot of federal law enforcement stomping on the wrong people.