I get this question a lot from folks.  While Congress has determined that it’s illegal to distribute and sell marijuana, several states have passed laws authorizing the distribution and use of marijuana for medical purposes.  Arizona will likely be the 15th state to do so if the election is certified today (November 29).  So, in some states it’s OK by state law but still against federal law.

To address this conundrum, the US Department of Justice produced guidelines for federal prosecutors for states that have enacted laws authorizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes. The memo provides clarification and guidance to federal prosecutors in states that have enacted laws authorizing the medical use of marijuana. Basically, it provides uniform guidance to focus federal investigations and prosecutions in these States on core federal enforcement priorities.  In one sentence in the memo, it says:  …“As a general matter, pursuit of these priorities should not focus federal resources in your States on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.”

The memo goes on to say that the prosecution of people with cancer or other serious illnesses who use marijuana as part of a recommended treatment regimen consistent with applicable state law is unlikely to be an efficient use of limited federal resources. On the other hand, prosecution of commercial enterprises that unlawfully market and sell marijuana for profit continues to be an enforcement priority of the USDOJ.

So there you have it.  Normally, I’d try to boil this down a little bit more, but I think I should leave it right there (since I’m just a health official, not a lawyer).