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Holder to states on med marijuana- we’re working on it (full audio)

June 2, 2011

I’m digging into the tape our political reporter Ian Donnis collected at U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder’s appearance in Providence. The big topic- those U.S. Attorneys’ letters to states warning that their marijuana dispensaries are in danger of federal raids and criminal prosecution.

Unlike past statements from the Department of Justice, which just maintained that federal policy hasn’t changed, Holder acknowledged that there’s some confusion on where the feds stand. He didn’t have an answer yet, but he said he’s working on it.

Here are a few interesting parts of the press availability-

Holder says the Ogden memo that said federal prosecutors wouldn’t prioritize going after people following state medical marijuana laws was intended for a very “narrow” purpose- meant to deal with people who had “end stage diseases, chronic, diseases.”

We don’t want this to be seen as something that was legalization. We don’t want this to expand beyond the exception that we carved out. So what we have to do is work with our counterparts in state government to deal with this. I mean this is something that’s new, I mean we have to understand that. We’re in a process that will involve dialogue, communication and I think at the end of that process, at the end of that dialogue, people will understand and be in a better place than frankly we are now.

He wasn’t very specific on the timeline for finishing that process.

We are in the process of working through these issues with your U.S. Attorney here, other U.S. Attorneys in other parts of the country… we are in the process of trying to working through all of these issues.  And we’re hoping we’ll able to in the not too distant future, bring a little more clarity to what the federal position is and to deal with the specific questions that have been raised in the various jurisdictions.

But he doesn’t think it would take an act of congress

I’m actually confident that we’ll be able to handle this in the executive branch… I think we can get to a good place on this issue.

For everybody out there that wants to parse his responses word for word, here’s a link to the full audio.  It’s difficult to hear all of the reporters’ questions, but Holder comes through clearly.

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