District Attorneys Ignore Cole Memo in Published Paper

District Attorneys Ignore Cole Memo in Published Paper

A group of federal prosecutors are pushing for a uniform path to cannabis enforcement nationwide, but have not offered any recommendations on how it would be executed.

The National District Attorneys Association is using the Supremacy Clause, part of the Constitution that allows federal law to overrule state law, to justify their call for enforcement. In a white paper released on April 20th, prosecutors called for consistent enforcement of marijuana laws in order to “maintain respect for the rule of law.” But instead of outlining tactics and strategies, the paper takes one small step away from the Supremacy Clause by encouraging more research on marijuana’s health effects and public safety issues.

“The National District Attorneys Association (NDAA) supports ongoing research into medicinal uses of marijuana and its derivatives, carried out consistent with any other research regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). NDAA also supports research regarding the impact of marijuana use on driving, regulated by appropriate agencies.”

The paper has been met with criticism from marijuana activists, specifically for its disregard for the Cole Memo, a policy outlined by the Justice Department under the Obama administration that directs prosecutors and law enforcement, “not focus federal resources in your States on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana.”

In response, Eric Zahnd, prosecuting attorney for Platte County, Missouri who helped craft the paper, admitted that the Cole memo was intentionally ignored, despite its significance in reforming the war on drugs. “We have not taken a position on that, and purposefully did not take a position,” he said. “This report was never an attempt to address every controversial topic regarding marijuana use, but we wanted to address some of the important topics.”

Those topics focus on how marijuana legalization at the state level effects the public, specifically in reference to driving under the influence and how legalization affects children’s access to marijuana. “We need more research on both what constitutes impairment and how we are going to measure impairment,” said Zahnd.

Stan Garnett, the district attorney for Boulder County, Colorado, was an outspoken member of the group who contributed to the paper. “I think what this [white paper] reflects is this was a product of a committee within a pretty conservative group: NDAA is not at the forefront of creative social thought,” he said. “This reflects the view of many prosecutors across the United States.”

Some of the concerns addressed in the paper should have been countered by data from the state of Colorado, which first legalized medical marijuana in 2000 and recreational marijuana in 2012. In this state, teen use of marijuana has not changed since legalization, fewer drivers have been charged with DUI’s, and public awareness about marijuana has been made a priority by state health officials. But this didn’t seem to make an impression on the majority of the attorneys.

“We spent a lot of time on the committee trying to make sure they had an accurate understanding of what was happening in Colorado,” Garnett said. “It was pretty clear they didn’t.”

The paper has been distributed to DOJ officials as well as Congress, but hasn’t yet received any significant response.

District Attorney Asked to Have Compassion for Medical Marijuana Patients

District Attorney Asked to Have Compassion for Medical Marijuana Patients

A bill introducing medical marijuana to the state of Pennsylvania was passed by the Senate in September 2014, but SB 1182, The Medical Cannabis Act, did not make it through the house this month. So, for now, medical marijuana still does not exist in the state.

In response to this, bill co-sponsor, Senator Daylin Leach is asking the District Attorney’s Association for help. In a letter addressed to Peter Johnson, President of the Pennsylvania District Attorney’s Association, Senator Daylin Leach writes,

“I ask that you perform an act of compassion. Given the likelihood that using lifesaving medical cannabis will not be a legal issue in Pennsylvania for much longer (it is already legal in 23 states and the District of Columbia), I ask that you consider using your prosecutorial discretion to forgo prosecution of any person for possession of cannabis if said person can demonstrate that they are using the cannabis for medical purposes.”

Dauphin County District Attorney, Ed Marsico does not see medical marijuana arrests as a problem. The 2012 year end report for Dauphin County shows that one-hundred-twenty-three people were arrested for marijuana possession. According to District Attorney Marisco, none of those arrests were medical marijuana patients. In an interview with Fox 43, Marsico said,

“I’ve never seen a case of the thousands of drug cases we had where a defendant claimed it was being used for medical purposes.”

Senator Leach told Fox 43 that he is not asking the District Attorney’s Association to ignore the laws, but he wants Pennsylvania residents to feel safe and comfortable knowing that if they are using marijuana as a medical treatment to save a life, they will not be prosecuted for it.

photo credit: Facebook

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