The U.S. Attorney for Arizona wrote me a letter today about how the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act and our rules interface with federal law. As you know, Arizona voters passed the Act last November and ADHS created a program to clearly carry out the voters’ wishes. While we’ve done what we can to set the stage for a medical marijuana program and not a recreation one, the letter points out that marijuana is still illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act– and that manufacturing, distributing, possessing or marketing marijuana is still an enforcement priority for the US Justice Department. The letter also says that previous memos were never meant to condone the medical use of marijuana (referring to the Ogden memo from October 2009) which recommended that federal law enforcement continue to prosecute significant traffickers of illegal drugs, including marijuana, but that sick people following state laws are not a priority for prosecution. I blogged about that right after the election passed.
The bottom line take-home message in today’s letter is that federal enforcement priorities in Arizona will continue to focus on folks that manufacture, distribute, possess and market marijuana despite the passage of the AZ Medical Marijuana Act– and that folks that operate large cultivation facilities or dispensaries (including property owners, landlords, and financiers) will be at risk for federal prosecution and asset forfeiture even if they’re in compliance with Arizona law and the rules that we published a couple of weeks ago.