U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. said yesterday that the Justice Department has no plans to prosecute pot dispensaries that are operating legally under state laws in California and a dozen other states, says the Los Angeles Times. The anticipated development was hailed by medical marijuana advocates and civil libertarians as a sweeping change in federal drug policy. Obama administration officials have indicated that they planned to take a hands-off approach to such clinics, Holder’s comments offered the most detailed explanation of the changing priorities toward the controversial prosecutions.
Holder said the administration’s priority is to go after egregious offenders operating in violation of both federal and state law, such as those being used as fronts for drug dealers. “Those are the organizations, the people, that we will target,” he said. Medical marijuana activists and civil libertarians embraced Holder’s statement as part of a landmark turnaround from the Bush administration’s zero tolerance for cannabis use by patients. “Whatever questions were left, today’s comments clearly represent a change in policy out of Washington. He’s sending a clear message to the DEA,” said Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance.