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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Medical Marijuana and Drug Trafficking Across State Lines: Of Two Governmental Sovereignties in American Federalism

"Federal agencies conducted 26 raids on medical marijuana facilities in 13 Montana cities [in mid-March, 2011], as agents seized thousands of marijuana plants and froze about $4 million in bank funds. The raids stunned medical marijuana advocates, many of whom believed the Obama administration's policy was to leave states with medical marijuana laws alone. That belief stemmed from Attorney General Eric Holder's announcement in October 2009 that the pursuit of 'individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance' with existing state medical marijuana laws would be the lowest priority of U.S. law enforcement. . . . Montana U.S. Attorney Michael Cotter said there was 'probable cause that the premises were involved in illegal and large-scale trafficking of marijuana. . . . When criminal networks violate federal laws, those involved will be prosecuted.' . . . While 15 states have legalized some form of medical marijuana use, the federal government still considers the drug an illegal controlled substance with a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use. Justice Department officials contend the focus of investigations involving marijuana is on large-scale drug traffickers and not on individual patients. 'We have made clear that we are not going to look the other way while significant drug-trafficking organizations try and shield their illegal efforts from investigation and prosecution through the pretense that they are medical dispensaries,' Justice Department spokeswoman Jessica Smith said. Marijuana advocates say enforcement of illegal activities involving medical marijuana should fall to the states, not the federal government."

The complete essay is at Essays on Two Federal Empires, available at Amazon.