NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Justice Department Targets Medical Marijuana in California

October 31, 2001

Although eight states have passed initiatives legalizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes, the U.S. Justice Department seems to have singled out California for raids against medical marijuana activities.

In the past month, federal agents there have uprooted a marijuana garden run by patients, seized the files of a doctor and lawyer who recommended the drug for thousands of sick clients and raided one of the state's largest cannabis clubs where more than 900 people with ailments like cancer and AIDS bought the drug with the blessings of city officials.

  • The raids are pursuant to a Supreme Court decision last May which effectively rendered the distribution of marijuana through large cooperatives illegal.
  • The Justice Department has announced that it makes no distinction between medical marijuana and other illegal drugs -- and that it will be aggressive in its crackdown.
  • Justice officials admit that enthusiasm for the crackdown is not shared equally throughout the department.
  • The recent California raids have enraged local officials, who not only support medical marijuana clubs but have sometimes helped to set them up.

The recent enforcement actions have not yet resulted in any criminal charges, which would give rise to jury trials. In the past, Justice has sought injunctions from judges -- rather than face jurors who might be sympathetic to the idea of supplying those suffering from debilitating or terminal illnesses with marijuana.

In a nationwide poll in March by the Pew Research Center, 73 percent of respondents said they supported allowing doctors to prescribe marijuana.

Source: Greg Winter, "U.S. Cracks Down on Medical Marijuana in California," New York Times, October 31, 2001.


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