DOJ Enforcements Proceed Despite Congressional Mandate

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Medical marijuana business owners may not be as protected from federal enforcement as they thought, coming off the December federal spending bill which included an amendment preventing the Department of Justice from spending funds prosecuting state medical marijuana programs.

A Department of Justice spokesman asserted that Congress’ instruction to the DOJ in that bill allow states to run their MMJ programs unimpeded doesn’t apply to individuals or organizations, making arrest and forfeiture still possible.

In spite of the congressional directive, the DOJ is pursuing proceedings against three dispensaries in the Bay Area, citing their narrow interpretation of the law, according the Los Angeles Times. Department spokesman Patrick Rodenbush told the newspaper that the instructions from Congress only stop the DOJ from impeding states’ activities, and doesn’t apply to individuals or businesses.

California attorney Henry Wykowski, who represents the dispensaries, acknowledges the amendment is vague and is open to interpretation.

Some industry insiders have said the legislation is merely symbolic and gives no guarantee that the feds will keep their hands out of the MMJ industry, especially in states where regulatory structures are weak or non-existent. California certainly fits that bill.