Justice Department Blocks Release of Anti-Marijuana Talking Points


This article was published on marijuana.com

Feds Argued Medical Cannabis Measure Could Prevent Enforcement Against Recreational Marijuana — But Changed Tune After Congress Ignored Concerns

The U.S. Department of Justice has denied Marijuana.com’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request to reveal talking points that the federal government sent to Capitol Hill in a failed attempt to defeat a Congressional medical marijuana amendment.

The measure, which has been enacted into law for the past two fiscal years, prevents the Justice Department and component agencies like the Drug Enforcement Administration from spending money to interfere with the implementation of state medical cannabis laws.

An internal Justice Department memo leaked to Marijuana.com last summer revealed that in the days leading up to the U.S. House vote on the amendment in 2014, federal officials circulated “informal talking points” to Congressional offices making the case that if the amendment passed it would not only prevent enforcement against state-legal medical marijuana programs but could also “limit or possibly eliminate the Department’s ability to enforce federal law in recreational marijuana cases as well.”

Footnote from a leaked Justice Department memo revealing the existence of talking points it sent to Congress arguing against a medical marijuana amendment.

But after Congress ignored opposition arguments and approved the amendment by a bipartisan vote of 219 – 189, the Justice Department quickly changed its tune and started arguing that the measure didn’t even prevent it from going after people operating in strict compliance with medical cannabis laws. As the leaked memo put it, the case the feds unsuccessfully tried to get Congress to buy “does not reflect our current thinking.”

In 2015, the amendment was approved again by an even stronger vote of 242 – 186.

Naturally, Marijuana.com wanted to see the text of the talking points the Justice Department circulated to “discourage passage of the rider” but which it no longer says it believes, so we filed a FOIA request on August 12 of last year.

On Monday, Amanda Marchand Jones, chief of the FOIA Unit in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, finally wrote back to say that the talking points were located. However, she added that she has decided the two pages of materials are “exempt from disclosure” because they contain “certain inter- and intra-agency communications protected by the deliberative process privilege and the attorney work-product privilege.”

DoJ FOIA denial

Marijuana.com now has 60 days to administratively appeal the denial.

Photo Courtesy of Eskymaks.

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