The Department of Justice issued a new memo to federal prosecutors clarifying its medical marijuana policy. Calling marijuana “a dangerous drug,” the memo threatened enforcement actions against those in the business of cultivating and distributing pot. What does this mean for California?

The new memo contrasts a 2009 memo which said federal resources should not be used to prosecute those in “clear and unambiguous” compliance with state medical marijuana laws.

Steve DeAngelo, founder and executive director of Harborside Health Center, a city-licensed medical cannabis dispensary in Oakland
Michael Montgomery, reporter for KQED and California Watch
McGregor Scott, former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of California during the George W. Bush administration and current partner at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe law firm in Sacramento

  • Gerald Fnord

    I don’t know what it means for California, but I think it means that Barack Obama is running for another term, and is more concerned about the Middle (class, -aged, -brow) than the young.

  • chemist151

    This is just another example how opposed to the democratic system the Obama administration is.  The voters are speaking Obama and they have spoken.
    Any federal agent acting against the 10th admendment should be held for treason under article IV for adhering to enemies of the US constitution by acting outside of the law to enforce personal belief instead of the will of the people. 

  • Livegreenoak

    Remember that former Oakland City Attorney John Russo warned the Mayor and City Council that the proposed industrial growers would be perceived as illegal by the Federal Govt.  The Mayor and City Council, particularly Councilmember Desley Brooks, took him to task for not doing his job.  Russo turned out to be right and right changing jobs from a City that wouldn’t accept his legal advice.

  • Cburnett1362

    I hope your guests can provide some insight into the Schedule level that marijuana is classified as, and whether avenues should be explored to reduce it. – Chris, San Francisco

  • Sam

    Why is Obama taking this harsh anti-drug policy? While he is clamping down on legal medicinal marijuana in California, a violent drug war is being imposed on the Mexican people. This is a nonsensical policy by the Obama administration which has led to the deaths of tens of thousands of people, yet has been unable to actually stop the flow of the substances. It will simply push people back into the illegal market to buy drugs from criminal groups.

    Why not push for full federal legalization, a policy which would end the monopoly that criminal cartels have? This would sidestep the issue of clamping down on medicinal cannabis altogether.

  • Fred Githler DC

    This is a confusing issue to those that are not convinced that this is a good thing.  This is the only “drug” that allows the patient to decide dosage, this looks like abuse to even me a regular user, occasional patient and health care provider.

  • Dave

    The guest makes a comment about “anyone can get marijuana” by paying a doctor for a prescription and we as taxpayers should be upset that Prop 215 has been hijacked.  We can debate the veracity of this statement that anyone can get medical marijuana….

    What’s important is to understand the negative outcome of this.

    Which, in my view, is nil and so far no one has put forth a reasonable story about the horrors of this kind of situtation.  Lots of FUD, but no substance. 

  • chemist151

    Listening to this hurts.  Marijuana would be a combination theapy because of the large number of active compounds contained in it.  It acts as a vasodialator, brochiodialator,  etc.  The list goes on, not because of one compound (THC) but because of the large number of compounds. 
    Pharmaceutical companies have tried to isolate and market these individual compounds but given they have clearance of hepatic blood flow, they will never be orally bioavailable.  That is why inhalation works.  You literally have to burn it, inhale it for the compounds to achieve a blood level concentration that is biologically active.
    Bureaucrats can sway the opinions of the ignroant but if this country did establish a robust education system, their ignorance would show as it does to the educated.

    • chemist151

      With that said, the FDA would never allow smoking as a theapy.

  • FayNissenbaum

    The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), that establishes regulations for so-called Protected Health Information (PHI) for patients currently is not applied to MCDs. 

    I worked for San Francisco on this issue. There’s a hodgepodge of record keeping approaches in dispensaries. Some photocopy drivers licenses and doctors recommendations and keep them on the premises. In fact, I found one with 7000 patient records on site that continues to theis day. In the event of a raid, all those names up up in some law enforcement database.

    Can McGregor or Steve comment on what becomes of patient records siezed at medical cannabis dispensaries?  Are records treated like medical records and separated out – or as evidence of drug transactions where patient and doctor names are collected and databased?

  • Jay Tucker

    Marijuana cannot be a dangerous drug. If it was, then according to government estimates, about 25 million users consuming about 14 million pounds of Marijuana would show up in our emergency rooms or doctors’ offices.  They do not. You cannot OD on it. So why persecute pot smokers and fill our jails at tax payer expense. DECRIMINALIZE  MARIJUANA.  The key to reducing drug use is to take the money out of it. No profit, no incentive to create a market. Making it illegal creates a high priced market for well armed Mexican gangs to supply us.  The money finances crime. Grist for the police, bad for everybody else.

  • Chrisco

    What McGregor Scott is missing when he talks of FDA approval and what illnesses cannabis can apply to is the fact that Doctors are free to prescribe drugs for any use, aka off-label. It is against the law for companies to market drugs for uses they were not approved of, but it is perfectly legal and common to prescribe drugs for uses they were not approved of.

    So this is not really an issue.

  • drawtheline!

    I work in law enforcement. These cannibis cards are abused by numerous people who are not sick at all. I sit in court all day long watching 18 and 19 year olds who had a headache or a sprained wrist come in with a medical marijuana prescription for a year. The purpose is just to give a new drug more freely to the masses right beside the alcohol and cigarettes that many people already abuse. If you think weed is harmless spend some time with a drug addict who will explain how they started with the LEGAL stuff got turned on by the high and moved on to cocaine and heroin. Or reveiw all the cases of people robbed and killed for thier weed and the money they made from selling it. If it is made legal the black market will just specialize in marijuana cigarettes dipped in PCP or laced with cocaine and leave it up to law enforcement to sort them out. We need to draw the line somewhere with what drugs will be legal and which will be illegal. We let people kill themselves and others (drunk driving, etc.) already with legal sustances and we don’t need to give folks something else to openly abuse.

  • Fred

    I wouldn’t care in the least of Marijuana was legal. Probably overall it would good for society. But the whole medical marijuana thing is just an end around the law and a ruse. And marijuana does have negative effects. To say that is it totally benign is not true.

  • Joe

    As a former worker in the industry I have seen the corruption first hand. The last club I worked at cleared over $300k each month yet paid the employees minimum wage.

  • 93gobears

    Stoners, stoners, stoners, stoners.  Medical marijuana is a joke.  The people that are advocates are long-time potsmokers.

  • FayNissenbaum

    McGregor, your pro-law enforcement comments about cannabis fly in the face of recent comments from Republicans and Democrats decrying the War on Drugs and calling it a failure:
    Michael, you should be bringing this up. Preisdent Jimmy Carter wrote the NYT op-ed, and political leaders agreed. 

  • Molly

    Legalize marijuana. Regulate its distribution and use. Tax the sellers. Inform the consumers. Our state (and country) is in immense debt. Regulating and taxing medical marijuana would eliminate the need for the continued increase of tax rates and would increase our capacity to provide social services to our people.

  • Kahunamoore

    Get over it… legalize it…

    • Kahunamoore

      And make alcohol illegal – what we have now is an inversion of priorities.

  • FayNissenbaum

    We know that cigarettes and alcohol kill more than 100,000 annually on toxicity alone. That does not include motor vehicle deaths and injuries from drunks on the road. To rail against cannabis as a social scourge ignores the hypocrisy present in our laws.

    Michael, you were remiss in not challenging McGregor on his conservative stance especially in light that conservatives and liberals alike have just announced that the War on Drugs is a clear FAILURE. It doesnt get more strongly stated than that. And our tax dollars are wasted on admitted futility.
    “Call Off the Global Drug War
    By JIMMY CARTERPublished: June 16, 2011″

  • Allan I Frankel, MD

    I was just thinking, what if we knew what we currently know and were deciding how to run with Proposition 215, the 1996 Medical Marijuana Proposition, how would we do it? Let’s call it a “do-over”. How would it look? How SHOULD it look? This is an academic question to the max, since most of what we currently know regarding CBD was not even known in 1996, but still, a “do-over”. Let’s start today. I know I will certainly irritate a lot of people on both sides of the fence with this next series of blogs, but I suppose that since it is my blog, I get to do whatever I want. I also understand the reader has the right to make comments and question everything. I truly hope my next series of blogs does stimulate a lot of discussion. I really do, because I think medical cannabis is in very serious trouble and we need a new model pretty quickly.I am actually more concerned, in some ways, regarding social or recreational users of cannabis than I am regarding “real patients”. I think I have a rough model on how we should move forward on the medical front. I am concerned, however, that whatever I personally believe, the dispensary or store model of cannabis “sales” is in serious jeopardy by the Federal Government, but not for reasons we have previously believed. For social cannabis use, it needs to be done through legalization. It just can’t any longer weigh on the shoulders of the crumbling Medical Cannabis System in California. If Cannabis were legally and freely available, the overwhelming number of patients would use it without any doctor’s help – at all. Getting stoned or just feeling better does not require any physician input – at least in my opinion.So, my concern must focus on medical cannabis and as time goes by, I will repeat that I favor legalization at every possible level for cannabis. I have never been a physician who “dreaded” legalization. I have always spoken out in favor of it. I am just concerned that I need to solely focus on helping to develop safe and effective medicines as well as helping to reshape the face and perceived face of Medical Cannabis in California. I understand that this appears quite grandiose. I know I cannot accomplish this alone, but in this blog and blogs to follow, I will be outlining a new/old/very old path we might consider. This path would be a parallel path to the store front model. I do have some concerns for the long term viability of the stores due to Federal pressures triggered entirely by Pharmaceutical $$$.These Federal pressures are no longer morale,legal, ethical or even political issues; it is all about Pharmaceutical profits and what the government can make in taxes and re-elections. The reality of medical cannabis tinctures from the international Pharma market has landed quite well and our own Pharmaceutical companies are purchasing shares of these other companies as well as receiving grow licenses from the federal government. Yes, you are hearing me correctly. I will separately publish all the references regarding my current blog series on “Starting Over Again”.So, despite only 20% of US Citizens being against Medical Cannabis, Medical Cannabis is in a lot of trouble due to the Feds, supported by Pharma, having a huge financial incentive to shut down any stores that might market competing medications. The competition will be very fierce as the “Medical Cannabis” can be marketed for less than $1/day while the Pharma tinctures will be in the $20 range and up.So, in upcoming blogs I will discuss:1. Where do the new or existing patients come from for this Statewide Collective?
    2. What Medical Cannabis products will be provided by this Collective?
    3. How and growing work and who will grow?
    4. How medications will be ordered and delivered by patients.
    5. What the collective can do with any excess professionally made medicines.I am hoping, that with this blog series a starter platform can be generated from which many of you can help sort this out. Perhaps we can create a forum? Anyone know how to do that? Should I just leave it as a train of comments?Thanks so much,
    Allan I Frankel,

  • Allan I Frankel, MD


    In the 1930′s, when cannabis was initially ex-communicated, there were a number of known reasons and probably many still unknown reasons for it’s demise. For certain, The world of Pharmaceuticals had plenty of reasons to see it go, despite their having many, many tinctures and elixers of cannabis available on their own formularies. They were big then and were growing fast as they were learning how to manufacture pills at about this time; there was much more profit in the new generations of medications to follow and they easily went along with destruction of cannabis tinctures approximately 80 years ago.Opium and cocaine, which were removed from cannabis tinctures in the early 1900′s, were on there way back into the pharmaceutical formularies and we all know what happened with narcotics from there. Addiction to pharmaceutical pills now is the countries’s number one drug issue! This is truly pathetic.So, Medical Cannabis comes on the scene in 1996 but falls into dis-repair due to the People’s great desire to have social or recreational cannabis. If you keep something people really want away from them, they will get it.So, Yes, I do think the Medical Cannabis System is sadly broken and to a large extent a joke. this does not mean, however, that the medicine is problematic. The newer levels of quality and certified medical cannabis tinctures are just beginning to get out to patients and the Feds are serious about shutting down every dispensary, if possible, to allow Pharma to open the new Trillion $ CBD market. Trust me, this will be huge…very huge and we are in the way.What are we to do to protect ourselves?1. Of course we should continue to fight for our rights to medicate and we should fight for the rights of legitimate collectives.2. We need to begin clearly separating the medicine from the social aspect as best we can. This can only be done thru development of medicinal grade cannabis medications as well as truly focussing on “real” patients; patients who desire dosed and verified medication. Where will these patients come from? Well, there are millions of them out there seeing their primary care doctors. Their primary care doctors should and WILL begin writing recommendations. This is a good new business for these doctors and it fully legitimizes medical cannabis. Their patients should join this “mega” collective and obtain very reasonably priced medication. While on this subject, it is anticipated that pharma based/sold cannabis tinctures/sprays/capsules will cost upwards of $20/day. The current medication grade cannabis tinctures are approximately 50 cents/day. The pharmaceutical based tinctures will be highly regulated and controlled for very limited diagnoses while the non-pharma tinctures, at least in California, can be used for any condition deemed appropriate between the physician and patient.3. In planning for the worst, the shutting of all dispensaries, we need to build a state-wide collective where many patients grow a plant or two. With this, we can internally convert the individual plants into medicinal grade medicines to distribute to the entire collective. Perhaps the growers would get their medication for no charge and all the other members would pay a reasonable fee.This collective should have thousands and thousands of patients; perhaps hundreds of thousands of members. It should begin offering not only great and inexpensive medications, but begin offering health insurance plans to cannabis cruises. We can do it, but it means a lot of different factions beginning to pull together and that sadly rarely works.if we fail, we will lose everything. Cannabis medicine will be over-run by the government and the pharmaceutical companies and controlled in a way to greatly limit access and allowed conditions. It will be legal, but HIGHLY restricted.We really must do something. How can I help?

  • Jamietucker65

    Thank you for  your service to our community.  I respect your thoughts
    but I have a different angle that I would like to offer to you:
    1.  How much $ has been spent in this country in the war against
    2.  Has that expence been effective?
    3.  I am an an active alcoholic ( not recovered ) but I  would like to    
         quit.  I suspect that many addicts share my situation.  My 
         problem is not the availability of booze but rather my desire to
         abuse it.
    4.  An investment in trying to help our neighbors in the battle against  the 
         desire for drugs would be a new approach.   Despite the fact that this
         approach would take funds away from law enforcement,  it is hard to 
         imagine how it could be more of a policy failor.
    It seems to me that there are  many people that suffer from the effects
       of drug abuse but clearly our current approach to the problem has
       been a complete failor;  we need to explore a completely new
       approach… I wish that I knew what the correct one would be.
    Thank you   

  • Lookiehereu

    Marijuana – the intoxicant that makes teenage boys drive slow.

  • Dean

    Doctors don’t write a prescription. Doctors write a letter of recommendation.

  • tortia

    Marijuana cannot be a dangerous drug. If it was, then according to government estimates, about 25 million users consuming about 14 million pounds of Marijuana would show up in our emergency rooms or doctors’ offices.  They do not. You cannot OD on it. So why persecute pot smokers and fill our jails at tax payer expense. DECRIMINALIZE  MARIJUANA.  The key to reducing drug use is to take the money out of it. No profit, no incentive to create a market. Making it illegal creates a high priced market for well armed Mexican gangs to supply us.  The money finances crime. Grist for the police, bad for everybody else. outlet online

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