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SLOG: ACLU Fights Back Against Gregoire, Fed Concerns Over Medical Marijuana Bill

By Andrew Calkins April 18, 2011

Adding another layer to the legal battle over Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles' (D-36, Ballard) legislation to regulate medical marijuana, the ACLU yesterday sent a letter to legislators disputing the concerns of Governor Christine Gregoire that patients and state administrators would come under fire from the the US Department of Justice if the bill becomes law, SLOG reports. According to the SLOG, ACLU legislative director Shankar Narayan has accused Governor Gregoire of "ignoring the facts."

Narayan's letter to state legislators used the actions of the DOJ in other states to frame the governor's concerns as misinformed:

  • The federal government has never prosecuted anyone—whether or not a state employee—who complies with state laws that license and regulate medical marijuana.

  • Although medical marijuana is legal in fifteen states, only six states, plus Washington, D.C., have clear dispensary laws. The federal government has never gone after a state employee engaged in the implementation of such a law.

  • In October 2009, the US Department of Justice produced the “Ogden Memo” stating the federal government’s intent not to prosecute individuals in compliance with state medical marijuana laws. But this memo came out when two states already had dispensary laws on the books, and at least one had already licensed medical marijuana producers. Why should Washington be any different from the states already doing this?

Last week, Governor Gregoire said she would consider vetoing parts of the legislation if it came to her desk in its current form. Regional US Attorneys returned her request for "guidance" on Thursday, threatening to prosecute and penalize those involved with administering the program.

On Friday, Kohl-Welles' expressed skepticism similar to the ACLU, saying she had a hard time imaging DOJ officials prosecuting state employees.
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