U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder promised Thursday to clarify the Justice Department’s position on state medical marijuana laws after federal prosecutors in several states warned they will prosecute everyone from licensed growers to state regulators.
“We are in the process of working [on] these issues with the U.S. Attorney for Rhode Island and other U.S. Attorneys across the country,” he said. “My hope is that sometime in the not too distant future … it will be addressed.”
Holder’s cautious comments came during a news conference while touring facilities in Rhode Island with other state lawmakers according to Laura Crimaldi of The Seattle Times.
Afterward the news conference, Holder was bombarded with questions about the Justice Department’s position on dispensaries that sell marijuana to people approved by state law to use cannabis to cope with chronic pain and other debilitating ailments.
Holder’s statement comes at a time when Governors in several states received warnings over the past couple of months federal attorneys. Sixteen states have approved the use of medical marijuana, including Rhode Island, which is not legal under federal law. Several of those states also regulate medical marijuana dispensaries.
Thursday, Holder sidestepped questions about whether he would support the arrest of state employees involved in any medical-marijuana licensing or regulation. He repeatedly said that he hopes more discussions between federal and state officials will lead to a fair resolution of the conflict. The Justice Department’s policy of prosecuting significant growers and distributors of marijuana conflicts with the operation of medical-marijuana dispensaries whose operators would legally grow quantities of cannabis.