As you well know, Florida legalized the medical use of marijuana last year, joining over 30 states that have some form of medical, if not complete recreational, use laws. At a Federal level, marijuana remains illegal as a controlled substance, even for medical use.
In 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2014, the U.S. Justice Dept put out memos that basically stated the Federal gov’t was taking a “hands off” approach to anyone complying with state laws on the use of marijuana.
On Januaray 4th , Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a memo rescinding the prior “hands off” approach memos, basically stating that U.S. Attorneys should use “previously established prosecutorial principles”
So, what does that mean? We don’t fully know yet, but it certainly is a change in policy at the Federal level. It seems to imply that U.S. Attorneys should prosecute individuals for violating Federal law. I do think it gives us a stronger argument against having to provide medical marijuana in WC claims in Florida. It also gives us a stronger argument in the intoxication defense. It is clear that it remains a Federal crime, and an insurance company or employer can not be ordered to commit a crime by a state judge.
We don’t have any Florida caselaw guidance on either issue yet, authorization of marijuana or the intoxication defense. But this is certainly a sign that it will not be legalized at the Federal level anytime soon.
Here is a link to the actual memo from the Attorney General and the press release.
Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, January 4, 2018
Justice Department Issues Memo on Marijuana Enforcement
The Department of Justice today issued a memo on federal marijuana enforcement policy announcing a return to the rule of law and the rescission of previous guidance documents. Since the passage of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) in 1970, Congress has generally prohibited the cultivation, distribution, and possession of marijuana.
In the memorandum, Attorney General Jeff Sessions directs all U.S. Attorneys to enforce the laws enacted by Congress and to follow well-established principles when pursuing prosecutions related to marijuana activities. This return to the rule of law is also a return of trust and local control to federal prosecutors who know where and how to deploy Justice Department resources most effectively to reduce violent crime, stem the tide of the drug crisis, and dismantle criminal gangs.
“It is the mission of the Department of Justice to enforce the laws of the United States, and the previous issuance of guidance undermines the rule of law and the ability of our local, state, tribal, and federal law enforcement partners to carry out this mission,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “Therefore, today’s memo on federal marijuana enforcement simply directs all U.S. Attorneys to use previously established prosecutorial principles that provide them all the necessary tools to disrupt criminal organizations, tackle the growing drug crisis, and thwart violent crime across our country.”
Press Release Number: