May 062011

By Linda Kor —

The State of Arizona may have legalized medical marijuana, but that doesn’t mean the federal government is in agreement.

In a letter to Arizona Department of Health Services Director Will Humble dated May 2, the Department of Justice made it clear that the federal government could prosecute anyone involved with a controlled substance.

The letter, written by U.S. Attorney for the District of Arizona Dennis K. Burke, states that growing, distributing and possessing marijuana in any capacity, other than as part of a federally authorized research program, is a violation of federal law, regardless of state laws that purport to permit such activities.

“In districts where a state had enacted medical marijuana programs, U.S. Attorney Offices ought not focus their limited resources on those seriously ill individuals who use marijuana as part of a medically recommended treatment regimen and are in clear and unambiguous compliance with such state laws,” stated Burke. “However, even clear and unambiguous compliance with the Arizona Medical Marijuana Act does not render possession or distribution of marijuana lawful under federal statute.”

Federal law regarding this matter may be enforced over individuals and organizations, including property owners, landlords and financiers.

“This compliance with Arizona laws and regulations does not provide a safe harbor, nor immunity from federal prosecution,” added Burke.

In addition, he noted that individuals or organizations that grow, distribute or possess marijuana on federal or tribal lands would also be in violation of federal law.

Humble concurred with the letter and acknowledged that individuals involved in any way with the use, distribution or manufacturing of medical marijuana will be at risk for federal prosecution and asset forfeiture even if they are in compliance with Arizona law.