The Department of Justice has had issues with states on their marijuana laws, but it’s made worse by the contradictory positions the department itself has taken.
In an attempt to defeat a provision that limited the department’s interference with state drug laws, the Department of Justice exaggerated its interpretation of what the provision could do, and then ignored it when it passed.
The so-called Rohrabacher amendment aimed to prevent the federal government from undermining state marijuana laws. However, the DOJ dismissed the provision as not affecting its prosecution of individuals or organizations.
As Reason reported, a leaked memo shows the contradictory thinking within the DOJ.
Jacob Sullum summarizes the memo:
The DOJ went from saying the rider could completely block enforcement of the federal ban on marijuana in states that allow medical or recreational use to saying the rider has no effect on prosecution or forfeiture actions aimed at “private individuals or entities.” But as the memo notes (quoting a Supreme Court opinion), members of Congress never should have believed what the DOJ said last year, since opponents of legislation, “in their zeal to defeat a bill…understandably tend to overstate its reach.”
In other words, the DOJ used scare tactics to play to drug warriors in Congress, but decided that the provision wasn’t all that meaningful after it passed. Instead of confronting the intent and meaning of the provision, the DOJ went through a series of acrobatics to continue its prosecution of individuals and organizations in compliance with state law.