The Department of the Treasury

U.S. Department of Justice

United States Attorney

District of Vermont


May 3, 2011


Commissioner Keith W. Flynn

Vermont Department of Public Safety

103 South Main Street

Waterbury, VT 05671-0001


Dear Commissioner Flynn:

I am writing in response to Deputy Commissioner Rosemary Gretkowski’s request for information about the Department of Justice’s position on marijuana dispensary legislation, specifically, on S. 17, a bill that would establish registered marijuana dispensaries in Vermont.  The purpose of this letter is to ensure there is no confusion regarding the Department of Justice’s view of such state-authorized marijuana dispensary operations.

As the Department has stated on many occasions, Congress has determined that marijuana is a controlled substance.  Congress placed marijuana in Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) and, as such, growing, distributing, and possessing marijuana in any capacity, other than as part of a federally authorized research program, is a violation of federal law regardless of state laws purporting to permit such activities.

The prosecution of individuals and organizations involved in the trade of any illegal drugs and the disruption of drug trafficking organizations is a core priority of the Department.  This core priority includes prosecution of business enterprises that unlawfully cultivate and sell marijuana.  Accordingly, while the Department does not focus its limited resources on seriously ill individuals who use marijuana as part of a medically recommended treatment regimen in compliance with state law as stated in the October 2009 Ogden Memorandum, we willenforce the CSA vigorously against individuals and organizations that participate in unlawful manufacturing and distribution activity involving marijuana, even if such activities are permitted under state law.  The Department’s investigative and prosecutorial resources will continue to be directed toward these objectives.

Consistent with federal law, the Department maintains its authority to pursue criminal or civil actions for any CSA violations whenever the Department determines that such legal action is warranted.  This includes, but is not limited to, actions to enforce the criminal provisions of the CSA such as Title 21, United States Code, Section 841, making it illegal to manufacture, distribute, or possess with intent to distribute any controlled substance including marijuana; Title 21, United States Code, Section 856, making it unlawful to knowingly open, lease, rent, maintain, or use property for the  manufacturing, storing, or distribution of controlled substances; and Title 21, United States Code, Section 846, making it illegal to conspire to commit any of the crimes set forth in the CSA.  Federal money laundering and related statutes which prohibit a variety of different types of financial activity involving the movement of drug proceeds may likewise be utilized.  The government may also pursue civil injunctions, and the forfeiture of drug proceeds, property traceable to such proceeds, and property used to facilitate drug violations.

The Department is concerned about the significant marijuanacultivation and manufacturing operation contemplated in S. 17 as it would involve conduct contrary to federal law and threatens the federal government’s efforts to regulate the possession, manufacturing, and trafficking of controlled substances.  Accordingly, the Department will carefully consider legal remedies against those who facilitate or operate marijuanadispensaries or marijuana distribution or production as contemplated by S. 17, should that measure become law.  Individuals who elect to operate marijuana cultivation facilities will be doing so in violation of federal law.  Others who knowingly facilitate such industrial cultivation activities, including property owners, landlords, and financiers, should also know that their conduct violates federal law.  Potential actions the Department may consider include injunctive actions to prevent cultivation and distribution of marijuana and other associated violations of the CSA; civil fines; criminal prosecution; and the forfeiture of any property used to facilitate a violation of the CSA.  As the Attorney General has repeatedly stated, the Department of Justice remains firmly committed to enforcing the CSA in all states.

I hope this letter assists you in making informed decisions regarding proposed marijuana dispensary legislation such as S. 17.

Very truly yours,


Tristam J. Coffin

United States Attorney

District of Vermont


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