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DOJ Threat Pushes Delaware To Suspend Medical Marijuana Dispensary Program


Dont mess with Delawareby Karen O’Keefe

The Obama administration’s stunning betrayal of medical marijuana patients claimed a new victim today. Delaware Gov. Jack Markell announced that he would halt the implementation of the state’s medical marijuana dispensary program following a vague and threatening letter from U.S. Attorney Charles Oberly III.

Oberly’s letter, dated February 9 but made public today, says that patients and individual caregivers would not be federal enforcement priorities, but that entities distributing marijuana “could” be targeted. It also says that state employees would not be immune from liability under the Controlled Substances Act for acts mandated by the Delaware medical marijuana law.

Mr. Oberly’s intimidating sentence about state employees is particularly outrageous given that the Delaware law does not require any violation of federal law. Mr. Oberly does not say what actions he believes would constitute violations of the CSA.

In Delaware, state employees would not possess, cultivate, or dispense marijuana. They would merely register those entities that would no longer be criminalized under Delaware law and set up rules dispensaries would abide by for such protections. No court has found that such conduct would constitute a federal crime, and the federal government has not taken any criminal or civil actions against states with medical marijuana programs.

U.S. Attorney Michael Ormsby in the Eastern District of Washington state sent a similarly vague letter, which was used as a reason for Gov. Christine Gregoire to veto a dispensary regulation bill. Yet, when an Arizona paper asked why state employees would be at risk in Washington but apparently not in Arizona, U.S. Attorney Ormsby said his concern was that state employees would be grading and handling — and thus possessing — marijuana under the Washington proposal. However, this was likely not even an accurate understanding of the Washington bill.

Following a two-year campaign led by legislators, patients, and MPP, Delaware became the 16th medical marijuana state last May. An affirmative defense went into effect on July 1, allowing qualifying patients who possess marijuana to prove the defense in court to avoid a conviction. The Markell administration was expected to release rules for dispensaries in the coming weeks, with three dispensaries being registered by the end of the year. The rules would also provide for ID cards to protect patients from arrest. Halting the dispensary program forces patients to the criminal market, or leaves them with no access to their medicine at all.

If you live in Delaware, please urge Gov. Markell to reverse course, to stand by patients, and to fully implement the compassionate law. Regardless of where you live, please let President Obama know it’s past time to live up to his word. If the Obama administration’s hostility to medical marijuana patients and providers will affect your vote in November, or your willingness to donate or volunteer for him, please let his campaign know.

Article from The Marijuana Policy Project. Visit their website to find out how to volunteer or donate.


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  1. Could state officials be federally prosecuted simply for doing their jobs in accordance with state medical cannabis law? This is the controlling Federal law:

    Title 21 United States Code (Controlled Substances Act) Section 885(d)
    Immunity of Federal, State, local and other officials

    Except as provided in sections 2234 and 2235 of title 18, no civil or criminal liability shall be imposed by virtue of this subchapter upon any duly authorized Federal officer lawfully engaged in the enforcement of this subchapter, or upon any duly authorized officer of any State, territory, political subdivision thereof, the District of Columbia, or any possession of the United States, who shall be lawfully engaged in the enforcement of any law or municipal ordinance relating to controlled substances.

    Under this section any duly authorized officer of any state engaged in the enforcement of any law or municipal ordinance relating to controlled substances cannot be held criminally liable under federal law. This law in no way refers only to “police” or other “law enforcement officers”, it only refers to “State, local and other officials”, nor does it refer to any particular law. It refers to anyone official appointed by the state or municipality to enforce any state or municipal law as long as it doesn’t conflict with state laws. Anyone authorized by the state to administer a state dispensary licensing system would have immunity from federal prosecution under this statute.

    I would like to point out that the Governor of Washington, Christine Gregoire, and Jenny Durkin, the Federal Prosecutor, were the first to cook up this lie. Both stated that there was no protection for authorized state employees who were carrying out state laws passed by the legislature. This was obviously not the truth. This is also why no state employee in any medical marijuana state has ever been prosecuted for violation of the Federal Controlled Substances Act.

    Whenever the press doesn’t challenge one of these ridiculous lies, the cannabis haters in government glom onto to it and try it elsewhere. They tried it in Colorado, but no one bought it there and it fizzled. The Governor of Arizona, Jan Brewer, tried it and the Court there threw it out almost immediately.

    The citizens of Delaware have to stand up and challenge this BS.

    But I wouldn’t count on MPP for help….nor would I give them a dime of my money. They sent out announcement to their members to support Senate Bill 6265 here in Washington. It would have set up a state registry of patients and turned control of medical cannabis to every town council and county politician. It would have ended medical cannabis as we know it in our state. Thankfully we were able to rally thousands of patients who called their legislators and urged them to kill the bill. Yesterday we were finally successful and the bill is now dead….no thanks to MPP!

    Both NORML and MPP seem to meddle in state cannabis laws that they haven’t bothered to read and they do so without contact those of us on the ground who are aware of the issues. They have both come down on opposite sides to the patients in our state far too often for it to be coincidental.

    Steve Sarich

  2. More lies to protect the corperate”citizens” from anything that might cut into their bloated profits

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