Under Pressure from DOJ, Delaware Gov. Suspends Medical Marijuana Program

Under Pressure from DOJ, Delaware Gov. Suspends Medical Marijuana Program

DOVER, DE — The Obama Administration’s War on Medical Marijuana claimed its latest victim on Friday, when Delaware Governor Jack Markell announced that he has suspended the regulation-writing and licensing process for medical marijuana dispensaries, killing medical marijuana in a state whose law does not allow patients or caregivers to grow their own.

The Democratic govorner said criticized the federal government for sending mixed signals on law enforcement, and that he had no choice but to suspend the program after recieving a letter from U.S. Attorney Charles Oberly III earlier last week.

In line with the Justice Department’s most recent iteration of its stance toward medical marijuana, last June’s memo from Deputy Attorney General James Cole, Oberly warned that state employees who regulated the medical marijuana industry might not be safe from federal prosecution.

The letter emphasized that marijuana is still prohibited under federal law, but patients individual caregivers would be very low law enforcement priorities at the federal level. Large, organized organizations distributing marijuana, however, “could” be targeted.

“[G]rowing, distributing and possessing marijuana, in any capacity, other than as part of a federally authorized research program, is a violation of federal law regardless of state laws permitting such activities,” Oberly said in his letter. “Moreover, those who engage in financial transactions involving the proceeds of such activities may also be in violation of federal money laundering statutes.”

The letter mirrors those sent to governors of other states from the Department of Justice under the Obama Administration, suggesting that state employees would not be immune from liability under the Controlled Substances Act for acts mandated by the Delaware medical marijuana law.

Rep. Helene Keeley (D-Wilmington) said that state lawmakers could consider amending the medical marijuana law towards a patient-caregiver system, to keep patients protected within the fed’s “low enforcement priority” zone.

“Maybe we have to tweak the current law to make this happen,” Keeley said. “We can’t give up.”

Ironically, some of the impetus for the passage of Delaware’s medical marijuana law was the Obama administration’s earlier adoption of a hands-off position on medical marijuana, the October 2009 memo from Cole’s predecessor, David Ogden. That memo said federal prosecution of medical marijuana patients and providers was “unlikely to be an efficient use of federal resources.”

Delaware passed its medical marijuana law last May. A month later, the Cole memo came out, and the new wave of federal medical marijuana threats, raids, and prosecutions began.