The Justice Department has a message for states, cities, and private operators looking to cash in on medical marijuana by setting up large-scale commercial farms: Let's not get carried away. A new memo sent this week to federal prosecutors makes clear that these kinds of operations will not be tolerated, reports the Los Angeles Times. And it raises anew the single biggest complication for medical marijuana: It remains illegal under federal law even if a state has sanctioned it.
In 2009, the Justice Department said it would not go after patients and caregivers complying with state law. "There has, however, been an increase in the scope of commercial cultivation, sale, distribution and use of marijuana for purported medical purposes," says the new memo written by Deputy Attorney Gen. James M. Cole, notes AP. A number of cities, Oakland especially, have been planning huge enterprises with equally large revenue projections. The new memo "is a step backward," says the chief counsel for Americans for Safe Access. "We kind of regard this as kind of the equivalent of Don't Ask, Don't Tell." The message to states setting up distributions systems, he says, is "if you get too big, we may well put a target on your back."