This story has been updated to include a clarification appended below.
A week after medical marijuana became a deciding issue in the Democratic primary race for Oregon attorney general, the state’s new U.S. Attorney said cracking down on the dispensaries is a low priority.
U.S. Attorney Amanda Marshall was sworn in in October, taking over for acting U.S. Attorney Dwight Holton, who lost the state’s attorney general race last week. He was an advocate of stricter federal enforcement against state-authorized marijuana dispensaries and was a critic of the state’s medical marijuana law. Holton lost to a former judge who promised to make enforcement a low priority. Marshall, likewise, is taking a different tack than her predecessor.
“I’m not here to say this law is good or bad or to suggest future legislation or future policy direction,“ Marshall told the Associated Press. ”People say, ‘You’re the U.S. attorney, are you going to go after medical marijuana?’ No, I’m not.”
Marshall told the AP that Oregon is home to more than 100 medical marijuana dispensaries — and the number is growing. The U.S. Attorney said that Oregon’a medicinal marijuana law does not give officials enforcement power and it does not account for the money needed to fund local officials’ efforts. She said there is a “lack of oversight,” with only a few prosecutions and more than 100 dispensaries. Marshall said the real threat is drug traffickers disguised as medical marijuana operation — not the medical marijuana users obeying the state’s law.
The 1998 law, one of 16 such states with a medical marijuana statute, (garbled) allows patients to have up to 24 ounces of marijuana, according to The Statesman Journal. These state laws conflict with federal laws making marijuana distribution a crime. Attorney General Eric Holder said in 2009 the Justice Department would not make prosecution of medicinal marijuana users or their caregivers who are complying with state laws a priority. But since then, some of the U.S. Attorney’s offices in the West have aggressively warned states against allowing large-scale medical marijuana distribution.
Last week, Holton lost handily to Democratic opponent Ellen Rosenblum. After he made comments that the state’s medical marijuana law was a “train wreck,” advocates jumped on the issue and began fundraising for his opponent in full force. The issue seemed to be a turning point in the race, with Rosenblum garnering a third of her campaign contributions from medical marijuana proponents.
Clarification: This story has been updated to reflect a clarification to the original AP story. According to the AP’s clarification: “The story should have made clear that while Marshall said she did not ‘care about medical marijuana,’ she meant her office is not going after medical marijuana users who obey the state’s medical marijuana law. But Marshall also said her office is aggressively pursuing people involved in the illegal trafficking of medical marijuana and in dispensaries illegally selling it.”