DOJ Lied to Congress to Stop Passage of Medical Marijuana Amendment

By Victoria Kim 08/14/15

An internal memo showed how the DOJ misled Congress prior to a vote on a MMJ amendment.

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According to an internal DOJ memo obtained by, the Justice Department misled members of Congress about the effects of a medical marijuana amendment to prevent its passage, but when those scare tactics failed, the department abandoned its original interpretation of the law.

Prior to a vote on a medical marijuana provision in an appropriations bill, barring the department from using federal funds to interfere with the implementation of state medical marijuana laws, the DOJ warned Congress that it could “limit or possibly eliminate the Department’s ability to enforce federal law in recreational marijuana cases as well.”

Such “informal talking points” were intended to discourage passage of the provision, but in May 2014, the amendment was passed and signed into law.

The DOJ has since reversed its position, according to the February 2015 internal memo obtained by Tom Angell, a legalization advocate and writer for The memo said that the amendment, which is now law, does not affect the department’s “ability to investigate and prosecute crimes involving recreational marijuana,” contrary to its original claim.

“Prior to the amendment passing, they tried to scare lawmakers by saying it would have much broader implications than most people imagined,” Angell tells The Fix. “But after Congress ignored those scare tactics, the Department is taking the position that the new law doesn’t actually do much of anything to restrict its powers.”

The 38-page document argues that the law only prevents actions against states, not individuals or businesses. “It prohibits the Department from preventing the implementation of State laws—that is, from impeding the ability of States to carry out their medical marijuana laws, not from taking actions against particular individuals or entities, even if they are acting compliant with State law.”

In other words, the Drug Enforcement Administration and U.S. attorneys can still raid and prosecute individuals and businesses in medical marijuana states. The provision’s sponsors, Reps. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.) and Sam Farr (D-Calif.), called the DOJ’s interpretation a “tortuous twisting of the text” and a clear violation of the law.

“This memo uses a lot of legal jargon to twist the issue but Congress was clear,” Farr told “Stop prosecuting medical marijuana patients and their providers.”

“They’re trying to have it both ways,” Angell tells The Fix. “But increasingly voters and lawmakers are moving beyond the era where we let law enforcement do whatever it wants in the name of marijuana prohibition.”

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr