New Guidelines For Medical Marijuana: A Step To The Right

The Department of Justice will distribute new guidelines to federal prosecutors today advising that it's not a good use of their time to prosecute medical marijuana users and distributors in states where medical marijuana is legal, as long as they're following state laws. It's been understood since before the election that President Obama intended to stop raids on medical marijuana users, and, with the exception of a few raids conducted in LA before the new leadership had gotten settled at the Department of Justice, that's been the effective policy so far.

But the new guidelines--a three-page memo going out to prosecutors in the 14 states where medical marijuana has been legalized in some fashion, as well as FBI and DEA officials--will set it down in formal communique. Glenn Greenwald points out that this policy is actually more conservative than that held by the Bush administration, which vowed to enforce federal anti-marijuana laws: it's a victory for states' rights, a loosening of the federal government's centralized grip.

At a time when allegations of socialism dominate criticism of the administration--when the stimulus was fought by conservative governors as a federal power-grab--a softer approach to medical marijuana laws has actually given states' rights proponents something to be pleased about with the Obama administration. Libertarians may not like much else about the administration: the stimulus, the auto bailouts, and the measured progress on Guantanamo, wiretapping, and a legal framework for terrorism suspects have all, in their eyes, marked shortcomings on behalf of the administration. But they can at least be happy about this.