The San Diego U.S. Attorney’s Office is treading dangerously close to tampering with local politics as the city of Del Mar considers legalizing medical marijuana in a November ballot initiative, said San Diego’s chapter of the ACLU.
The American Civil Liberties Union sent Southern California U.S. Attorney Laura Duffy a letter last week asking her to retract statements the group said were an “unjustified interference in local legislative matters.”
Duffy, who is one of the four California U.S. Attorney’s to come down hard on medical marijuana dispensaries in the past few months, wrote a letter to Del Mar city attorneys in July, explaining that Justice Department policy — spelled out in the 2009 Ogden and 2011 Cole memoranda — states that the department will not waste valuable resources on going after medical marijuana dispensaries that follow state law. Duffy warned, though, that city and state employees are not exempted from federal law that dictates marijuana is an illegal substance.
The ACLU called Duffy’s letter a “threat” to city employees who follow the proposed ordinance, if passed in November by voters.
“Such a broad interpretation of liability under the [Controlled Substance Act] is unprecedented and amounts to unjustified interference in local legislative matters, if not thinly veiled intimidation of city officials and thus potentially of voters,” the letter said. It was signed by David Loy, legal director for the San Diego and Imperial Counties ACLU, and Novella Coleman, criminal justice and drug policy fellow at the ACLU of California.
Duffy responded this week, telling the San Diego Union-Times that she “respectfully disagree[s]” with the ACLU’s analysis.
“[I] would note that that guidance I provided to the Del Mar City Attorney’s Office is guidance that has consistently been taken by numerous United States Attorney’s Offices around the country as well as the Department of Justice,” Duffy said in a statement to the paper.
California is one of 17 states, along with the District of Columbia, that permits the use and sale of marijuana for medicinal purposes. Duffy has caught flak from Congress after the state’s U.S. Attorney’s cracked down on a number of dispensaries last year. In California, the ACLU is calling on Duffy to pull back from her statements to Del Mar.
“While the federal government may enforce federal law, it has no business attempting to interfere in local legislative decisions or influence local voters with unfounded insinuations about potential prosecution,” the letter reads.