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Obama won’t prosecute medical marijuana users in states where it’s legal

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Although medical marijuana use is still illegal on the federal level, the Obama administration said today that it won’t go after patients or their providers in states where it is legal.

“It will not be a priority to use federal resources to prosecute patients with serious illnesses or their caregivers who are complying with state laws on medical marijuana, but we will not tolerate drug traffickers who hide behind claims of compliance with state law to mask activities that are clearly illegal,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement to federal prosecutors this morning. “This balanced policy formalizes a sensible approach that the Department has been following since January: effectively focus our resources on serious drug traffickers while taking into account state and local laws.”

The memo, penned by David W. Ogden, Deputy Attorney General, says:

As a general matter, pursuit of these priorities should not focus federal resources in your States on individuals whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana. For example, prosecution of individuals with cancer or other serious illnesses who use marijuana as part of a recommended treatment regimen consistent with applicable state law, or those caregivers in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing state law who provide such individuals with marijuana, is unlikely to be an efficient use of limited federal resources.

In Minnesota, medical marijuana remains illegal. In 2009, the Minnesota Legislature passed a tightly-worded bill that would allow some medical marijuana in the state, but that measure was vetoed by Gov. Tim Pawlenty.

Advocates say they will take their battle to the people, and and constitutional amendment legislation is planned for the 2010 legislative session.