Marijuana Growers in States Allowing Medical Use May Be Charged

Large-scale growers, sellers and distributors of marijuana may be prosecuted in states that have passed laws permitting medical use of the drug, according to a Justice Department memo obtained by Bloomberg News.

The June 29 memo, from Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole to U.S. attorneys, says a 2009 memo issued by Deputy Attorney General David Ogden -- referred to as the “Ogden Memo” -- remains in effect.

The Ogden letter advised prosecutors that enforcement efforts against people using marijuana to treat cancer or other serious illnesses in accordance with state laws may not be “an efficient use of federal resources,” according to Cole’s memo. The Ogden memo was “never intended to shield” larger scale cultivation, Cole wrote.

“Within the past 12 months, several jurisdictions have considered or enacted legislation to authorize multiple large-scale, privately operated industrial marijuana cultivation centers,” according to the June 29 memo. “Some of these planned facilities have revenue projections of millions of dollars based on the planned cultivation of tens of thousands of cannabis plants.”

State laws or local ordinances are “not a defense” to civil or criminal prosecution of such cultivation, according to the memo.

Josh Eaton, a spokesman for U.S. Attorney Melinda Haag in San Francisco, didn’t immediately return an e-mail seeking comment yesterday.