President Obama pledged during his 2008 campaign to take a hands-off approach to medical marijuana, but four years later raids and other tactics have forced as many as 200 medical-marijuana growers and distributors to cease operations, resulting in sharp criticism from likely voters and fellow Democrats.
Medical marijuana supporters say the reason behind the apparent policy shift remains a mystery.
"It's really confusing," Kris Hermes of Americans for Safe Access said, Thursday. "The president's tactics are worse than those of his predecessor, George Bush."
Hermes and others involved in the issue point at two Justice Department memos: the first was issued in 2009 and seemed to suggest the hands-off approach, and the second, issued last year, restated the previous so-called "Ogden memo," but also made clear federal law still prohibits the growing, selling and possession of marijuana.
"People took the 2009 letter to heart," Hermes said. "Then the government realized what was in the letter and freaked out."
Federal officials maintains the policy has not changed.
"The Department of Justice is focusing its limited resources on significant drug traffickers, not seriously ill individuals who are in compliance with applicable state medical marijuana statues," Allison Price, an agency spokeswoman told Fox News.
However federal officials have acknowledged the 2009 letter was followed by a proliferation of large-scale medical marijuana operations – some with projected annual revenue exceeding $1 million – which appeared to be driven by profiteers and those who want to legalize all drugs, not advocates for the compassionate use.
A promise not to use Justice Department money to "circumvent state laws" was among the president's campaign pledges.
He attempted to clarify his position this week in a "Rolling Stone" magazine interview. Obama said the government was not going to "prioritize prosecutions of persons who are using medical marijuana," but that he never committed to giving "carte blanche to large-scale producers and operators of marijuana."
"I can't ask the Justice Department to say, 'Ignore completely a federal law that's on the books,'" he added......
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