WASHINGTON (CN) – In a move applauded by pot proponents, Attorney General Eric Holder announced Monday that patients who use medical marijuana will get a break from federal crackdowns so long as they’re complying with state laws. “It will not be a priority to use federal resources to prosecute patients with serious illnesses or their caregivers who are complying with state laws on medical marijuana,” Holder said, marking a shift from the previous administration.
In a memo issued to federal prosecutors and the FBI, Deputy Attorney General David Ogden urged law enforcement to use discretion in distinguishing between drug users who abide by state laws and those who don’t.
“Prosecution of individuals 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,” Ogden wrote.
Law agents were directed to pursue more serious marijuana offenses, including drug sales to minors, money laundering, and the illegal use of firearms.
“We will not tolerate drug traffickers who hide behind claims of compliance with state law to mask activities that are clearly illegal,” Holder said.
Also Monday, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge James Chalfant ruled that Los Angeles’ moratorium on new medical marijuana dispensaries is invalid after Green Oasis sued in September. The lawsuit accused the Los Angeles City Council of violating state law when it extended the ban until mid-March, The Los Angeles Times reported.
There are currently 14 states that allow the use of medical marijuana: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.
The policy marks a shift from the Bush administration, which backed drug raids on patients using pot to treat chronic pain or other illnesses, regardless of whether their states allowed it.
That was under President George W. Bush, who reportedly said that he couldn’t remember if he had tried cocaine.
President Barack Obama has said that he smoked pot, but unlike former President Bill Clinton, he admitted to having inhaled.