Washington, D.C. - Speaking at a press conference on Feb 25 with
DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart, and reiterating a position made by the White House following DEA raids in California on February 4, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told reporters that ending federal raids on medical marijuana dispensaries "is now American policy." The Attorney General's comments are the latest sign of a sea change in federal policy that prohibits the use of medical cannabis in the thirteen states that have enacted such laws.
In response to a reporter's questions about DEA raids at medical marijuana facilities in California, Holder said, "What the President said during the campaign... is now American policy."
72 million Americans live in states where medical cannabis is legal, but federal law prohibits its use under any circumstances. More than 100 Americans are currently facing prosecution, sentencing, or serving time in prison for medical cannabis offense right now. ASA hopes the emerging change in federal policy will signal an end to prosecutions and bring those already serving time for medical cannabis offenses home to their families.
"There has been a lot of collateral damage in the federal campaign against medical cannabis patients," said Steph Sherer, Executive Director of Americans for Safe Access, the nation's largest medical cannabis advocacy organization. "We need to stop the prosecutions, bring the prisoners home, and begin working to eliminate the conflict between state and federal medical marijuana laws."
ASA has provided recommendations for a new national medical cannabis policy to President Obama and the 111th Congress earlier this year.
"The Drug Enforcement Administration continued to carry out such raids after Obama's inauguration, Grimm says, despite an Obama campaign promise to cease the practice. But asked at a press conference Wednesday, Holder said it wouldn't be the Administration's policy going forward.
"No" it won't be Obama policy, Holder said. "What the president said during the campaign, you'll be surprised to know, will be consistent with what we'll be doing in law enforcement. He was my boss during the campaign. He is formally and technically and by law my boss now. What he said during the campaign is now American policy."
During the campaign, Obama told an Oregon newspaper that he agreed with the idea of medical marijuana. "I think the basic concept of using medical marijuana for the same purposes and with the same controls as other drugs prescribed by doctors, I think that's entirely appropriate," said Obama
At a campaign stop 2007 campaign stop in New Hampshire, Obama was specific about medical marijuana raids. "I would not have the Justice Department prosecuting and raiding medical marijuana users."