Jacob Sullum

By contrast, an October 2009 memo from Cole's predecessor, David Ogden, said U.S. attorneys "should not focus federal resources" on "individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana." The Ogden memo listed criteria for prosecution, such as violence, sales to minors and sales of other drugs, that make sense only when applied to medical marijuana suppliers, as opposed to the patients and caregivers who the Justice Department now claims are the only people covered by the policy of prosecutorial restraint.

Testifying before the House Judiciary Committee in May 2010, Attorney General Eric Holder confirmed that the promised forbearance applied to people "dealing in marijuana." When Rep. Jared Polis, D-Colo., asked him about threats to raid "legitimate businesses" that supply medical marijuana, Holder said "that would be inconsistent with ... the policy as we have set it out ... if the entity is, in fact, operating consistent with state law and ... does not have any of those factors" mentioned in the Ogden memo. This position jibed with Holder's earlier statement that "the policy is to go after those people who violate both federal and state law."

So how does the new Justice Department memo address the blatant contradiction between prosecuting state-authorized medical marijuana suppliers and not prosecuting them? It assures us the two policies are "entirely consistent." That way, Obama can get credit for tolerance and compassion without being painted as soft on drugs. After all, he did inhale.


Jacob Sullum

Jacob Sullum is a senior editor at Reason magazine and a contributing columnist on Townhall.com.
 
TOWNHALL DAILY: Be the first to read Jacob Sullum's column. Sign up today and receive Townhall.com daily lineup delivered each morning to your inbox.
 
©Creators Syndicate