U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke's Buzz-Kill on Medical Marijuana: Feds to Act Against "Large" Grow Operations -- But Won't Define "Large"

Categories: Marijuana Biz

burke dennis.jpg
Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke says the feds will target "large" marijuana-growing operations -- even if they're approved by state law. "Large," however, isn't being defined.

 


Federal agents may bust anyone participating in a "large" pot-growing operation, despite Arizona's voter-approved medical marijuana law, says Arizona U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke in a letter to the state.


In a recent letter to Will Humble, the director of the state Department of Health Services, Burke reiterates that the feds will look the other way when truly sick people use marijuana -- but that the patients' suppliers might be inviting trouble.


Burke compounds the schizophrenic stance by stating that federal law "may be vigorously enforced against those individuals and entities who operate large marijuana production facilities. Individuals and organizations -- including property owners, landlords and financiers" face legal problems including seizure of their property and other assets.


Problem is, Burke gives no definition of "large."


Robbie Sherwood, Burke's spokesman, didn't know what "large" meant, either, adding that Burke could not be reached because he was on a plane to Washington D.C.   

We e-mailed Burke back in February, asking him for his stance on the issue following our report on an ominous letter to California officials by one of that state's top federal prosecutors, Melinda Haag. Unfortunately, Burke blew us off. But after we saw his letter on the subject on another news site today, Sherwood was kind enough to e-mail us a copy. (See below.)

Though Burke claims in the letter that he's trying to avoid confusion, he really does anything but. Not that it's his fault: Voters knew, or should have known, from the beginning that Arizona's Proposition 203 ran afoul of federal law. Buying, keeping, growing or using marijuana is against federal law, period.

A showdown is coming. It might not be this year, but sooner or later the rights of the 15 states that have medical marijuana laws, including Arizona, must be dealt with in a logical manner. For now, though, the state's weed-minded entrepreneurs have to live with the risk in their quest for the Pot of Gold.

Burke's opinion is hamstrung by the Obama Administration's indecision on the issue. Rather than simply make a decision, Obama's Justice Department chooses to play games with people's lives -- and money. Go ahead, the feds say, invest your hundreds of thousands of dollars in a medical weed-related business. Maybe you'll be a millionaire, or maybe you'll end up serving a few years behind bars. But whether you'll get the prize or prison will be based on a whim. Your operation may be too "large," while someone else's may be just right.

Perhaps the criteria will come down to success: The people running the most efficient, profitable businesses may be first against the wall.

Humble, the DHS director, has publicly stated that he would prefer a few large cultivation facilities that supply several dispensaries rather than having every dispensary growing marijuana. That makes sense from a regulators point of view, because there would be less to regulate. By claiming that "large" grow operations, whatever those are, will be targeted, the feds can't help but indirectly guide the burgeoning industry away from Humble's idea.

In fact, the feds' lack of leadership on the issue may well result in the most unregulated scenario of all: A free-for-all in which most qualifying patients in Arizona can grow their own pot because too few dispenaries are open. State law allows patients to grow up to 12 plants unless they are within 25 miles of a dispensary.

If the feds drive most dispensaries out of business, the state is likely to be full of thousands of small-time growers instead of a few big ones The feds don't have the resources to go after small-time growers and state law enforcement will be legally prohibited from busting medical marijuana patients. Patients, who can legally possess up to 2 1/2 ounces at any time no matter where they got it from, may even turn to black-market weed for their medicine.

In other words, drug cartel kingpins probably can't wait for the feds to target state-approved pot suppliers.

Andrew Myers of the Arizona Medical Marijuana Association thinks the federal stance is "asinine," but that it was too early to tell how Burke's letter will affect the industry. The state is set to begin taking applications for dispensaries on June 1. Myers says his office has been taking numerous calls this afternoon from concerned people in the medical marijuana industry.

It makes sense to us that the answer to all of this won't come until 2013. Obama probably won't want to antagonize either side of the issue by making an actual decision before the election.

Burke on Prop203


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25 comments
country skunk
country skunk

Dennis Burke.. lol the dude is a total dork you can tell by looking at him he's never pleased a woman in his life

Imanoid2
Imanoid2

Burke: praying for your demise!!

Docbob498th
Docbob498th

How about every medical marijuana user mail a joint to Burke. It just might mellow him out.

HAPPY TRAILS
HAPPY TRAILS

Go out in to your local Arizona desert and cut home grown free Arizona Peyote { Mescalito } instead. I have been a happy customer of Arizona home grown desert Peyote since 1968. and its still free. stupid cops dont even think of Peyote. let them go after all those evil funny stoned out hippie reefer and grass smokers instead. that keeps the heat off of me and Mescalito. HAPPY TRAILS YALL.

Hock
Hock

The real issue is the conflict in law. Since MJ is criminalized at the federal level, it's still against the law. The change needs to first come at the federal level, either decriminalizing it or changing MJs schedule so it can be prescribed by doctors. Any hospital, doctor, or any organization for that matter that receives federal funding may have agreed to obey federal laws or risk funding.

Pit Boss
Pit Boss

I think you got his name wrong. It should be "Arizona U.S. Attorney Buzz Killington..."

Ms Info
Ms Info

The really f**ked up thing about Burke's position in that letter is that someone standing on the west side of Pima Road would not be prosecuted for marijuana possession, but someone standing on the east side of the road (on the Salt River rez) would get prosecuted by the feds. That's more sinister than mere indecision on the administration's part.

Jason
Jason

Why does Burke care about weed smokers? He should have the Senile Spinster, Blimpie, Lackey Blackie, Loverboy Fox, Candy Ass Thomas, Aubuchon, etc. indicted already. He's had 4 years. When can I break out my really cold champagne Mr. Burke?

J Curwen
J Curwen

Seems like the feds already have their hands full with the smuggling problem along the border. How will they afford the resources to enforce federal laws against medical pot people?

With any luck there will be more states legalizing medical cannabis in short order. IIRC, this is basically how alcohol prohibition fell in the 30s. One state after another quit the program until the entire burden of enforcement fell upon the feds.

Perhaps it's time we took a lesson from history?

Mistalee
Mistalee

"Burke's opinion is hamstrung by the Obama Administration's indecision on the issue."

Indecision, no. Blatant dishonesty, yes.

Obama promised during his campaign a "hands off" policy towards medical marijuana producers and dispensers operating within state law.

He flat fuckin' lied. Just as he lied about so many other things. State-legal medical marijuana businesses have been raided and shut down, their owners prosecuted, all over the country.

ExpertShot
ExpertShot

"A free-for-all" is exactly what is needed. Cannibis is basically a weed - it needs little water, no fertilizers or pesticides and is VERY easy to grow. Growing their own will practically free the patient from paying exorbitant costs for the medication. Just like those people who grow their own mint and use it for treating upset stomach, our needy patients will be able afford better housing or food or other needed medicines. This is truly the best situation. Of course, BECAUSE it is the best option, the government will screw it up and try to make a constiuancy of the pot growers so they can donate to the politicians' campaigns.

Adrian Cruz
Adrian Cruz

Burke: Shut up and prosecute Arpaio already.

Captain Trips
Captain Trips

I was pulled over by the local police in 1998 with a big plastic bag full of about 40 fresh picked peyote buttons sitting on my front floor passenger side and the police looked at it and didnt even know what it was. to him it was just desert cactus. cops are not as smart as they like to think they are.

Mistalee
Mistalee

I was thinking that "Dick Hedley" fits him better.

Ms Info
Ms Info

Burke would need to grow a pair first. It's a lot easier to go after a regular Joe suffering with chronic pain than Sheriff Joe, who is a chronic pain.

Michele Rita
Michele Rita

Where is Nark Informant Dennis Burke when you need him? lol nowhere to be seen.

Jason
Jason

Yeah, for the record, I did NOT write this.

Jason
Jason

Most office yuppie Pigs US Attorneys and Prosecutors are all talk and no action sitting around in their air conditioned offices thinking up new ideas to get dopers. they are full of fucking shit and always have been. the war on drugs is a failure since the tricky Dick Nixon days. they keep drugs illegal because it feeds the courts easy money from drug users who get pinched and pay fines $. and it keeps jail and prison guards employed. courts and fines are a money making legal mafia.

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