Marijuana: Is there any change in the federal government’s enforcement the drug?  Well, since the chief federal drug enforcement agency takes a position that there is no such thing as medical marijuana, the answer seems to be a big “No.”  Sometimes I get the sense that the U.S. Department of Justice sends out memos and the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) and the DEA shreds them without reading. Since 2009, the DOJ has been recommending that drug enforcement officers ease up on the arrest and prosecution of people in states that have legalized pot.

While Colorado is in the forefront of common sense reform on pot sale, distribution, and use, the federal government is at the opposite end of the spectrum. Federal law enforcement agencies continue to enforce and arrest marijuana drug distributors and users despite the DOJ’s recommendation to ease up on these types of cases.

What is the DEA’s view of marijuana possession and distribution?

In response to calls for leniency on drug cases, the DEA has said “No Go.” The official DEA position seems to be that nothing has changed in Colorado. Instead, the DEA continues to conduct raids and arrest people for marijuana-related offenses. Considering the zeal with which the DEA continues to forge ahead, it should come as no surprise that the head of the DEA himself is leading the call for more criminal cases. This arises out of their official position that there is no such thing as medical marijuana.

Here is DEA chief, Chuck Rosenberg, on medicinal marijuana:

“What really bothers me is the notion that marijuana is also medicinal—because it’s not. We can have an intellectually honest debate about whether we should legalize something that is bad and dangerous, but don’t call it medicine—that is a joke.”

There you have it. The chief drug enforcement agent laughs off the possibility that there could be medical benefits for the herb. He essentially scoffs at the very idea that marijuana is anything but a dangerous drug.

Interestingly, Rosenberg’s comments contradict the results of the DEA’s recent National Drug Threat Assessment Summary. In this national survey of over 1,000 law enforcement departments, marijuana scored at the bottom of the threat list, with only 6 percent of respondents reporting it as the biggest drug threat.

In response to Rosenberg’s comments regarding medicinal marijuana, pro-legalization group, Marijuana Majority, petitioned Barack Obama to fire Rosenberg. As of today the petition has 152, 209 signatures, including singer Melissa Etheridge who used the drug while undergoing chemotherapy for breast cancer.

 

What is the future of marijuana drug enforcement by the federal government

Let’s not delude ourselves here. While the State of Colorado has helped pave the way for medicinal and recreational uses of the drug and has assisted countless people in coping with physical and mental problems, the chief executioner of drug laws for the federal government continues to swing the axe against legalized marijuana.  And if the head of the DEA is against legalization, then we must all assume that the front line people in the organization will follow suit.

Fortunately, there seems to be a growing call for legalization, even from within the DEA. As recently as February 18, 2016, retired DEA agent Finn Selander has come clean with his personal belief that marijuana should be legalized, taxed and regulated. Moreover, Selander blames the United States and its entrenched “war on drugs” for “creating big business for the drug cartels running marijuana.”

Clearly not alone in his support of medical marijuana, organizations such as American Nurses Association, American College of Physicians, and American Academy of Family Physicians embrace the real medical benefits of the drug.

Despite cracks in the dam, Colorado residents need to be careful given that the federal government can arrest citizens for drug use that would otherwise be legal under state law. In essence, the current State laws merely except residents from arrest and prosecution under state law: the Federal Government is still free to arrest people for the possession and sale of the drug.  To quote the popular 1980s show Hills Street Blues, with the federal government watching over you, “Let’s be careful out there.”