WASHINGTON (CNN) - The Justice Department has provided federal prosecutors "clarification and guidance" urging them to go after drug traffickers, but not patients and caregivers, in the 14 states that have medical marijuana laws.
[cnn-photo-caption image= http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/POLITICS/10/19/medical.marijuana/art.med.marijuana.afp.gi.jpg caption="Signs beckon patients into a medical marijuana clinic in Los Angeles, California."]
A memo sent to U.S. attorneys said that in carrying out Justice pronouncements made earlier this year indicating a policy shift to end prosecutions against users, authorities should continue to pursue drug traffickers.
"It will not be a priority to use federal resources to prosecute patients with serious illnesses or their caregivers who are complying with state laws on medical marijuana," said Attorney General Eric Holder. "But we will not tolerate drug traffickers who hide behind claims of compliance with state law to mask activities that are clearly illegal," Holder added.
The memo from Deputy Attorney General David Ogden was sent to U.S. attorneys in Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Maryland, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.
The issue is particularly significant in California, where there has been uncertainty about the government's approach to raiding marijuana dispensaries, which are increasing and thriving.