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Marijuana possession and cultivation- Is There a Conflict Between State and Federal Law

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In an recent memo, the U.S. Attorney General addressed concerns about the existence of state laws allowing for marijuana growth and distribution.

By Attorney Elisabeth K.H. Pasqualini, Narcotics Defense Lawyer, Harrisburg, PA

In a memo dated August 29, 2013, the U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder, addressed the Department of Justice's concerns regarding state and local laws allowing for the legalization of marijuana.  Many states, such as California, Washington, Colorado, Nevada, New Jersey, Illinois, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts have either legalized marijuana for medicinal use or recreational use (only CO and WS).  However, the federal government still maintains the illegality of marijuana under the Controlled Substances Act (CSA).  In the memo, the U.S. Attorney General outlines that it believes scant prosecutorial resources should only be devoted to "significant threats".  Those threats include the following:

  • Preventing distribution of marijuana to minors;
  • Preventing revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to gangs, criminal enterprises, and cartels;
  • Preventing diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal to other states where it is not;
  • Preventing state-authorized activity from being used as a cover for trafficking;
  • Preventing violence and the use of firearms;
  • Preventing drugged driving;
  • Preventing growing marijuana on public lands; and
  • Preventing marijuana possession on federal property.

In essence, the federal government is going to turn a "blind eye" to possession cases involving small amounts for personal use in those states that have a regulatory scheme in place.  This is not meant to create any substantive or procedural rights for a pending civil or criminal case.  Further, it is to be used as a tool for "prosecutorial discretion".  That discretion may change in time with a new U.S. Attorney General.

If you've been charged with a federal or state drug offense, you need effective legal representation.  You may call Shaffer & Engle Law Offices, LLC toll free or email us today.

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