The Department of Justice

US Department of Justice
United States Attorney
District of Montana

Michael W. Cotter
United States Attorney
901 Front Street, Suite 1100
Helena, Montana 50626

April 20, 2011

Senator Jim Peterson, Senate President
Representative Mike Milburn, Speaker of the House of Representatives
PO Box 200500
Helena, Montana 59620-0500


This acknowledges receipt of your letter dated April 18, 2011, requesting Department of Justice guidance concerning a proposed regulatory scheme by the Montana Legislature for the use of marijuana and marijuana infused products for therapeutic purposes. While the Department of Justice has not reviewed the specific legislative proposal for licensing and regulating medical marijuana that you indicate is being finalized, the Department has stated on many occasions that 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 that purport 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 market and sell marijuana. While the Department generally does not focus its limited resources on seriously ill individuals who use marijuana as part of a medically recommended treatment regimen consistent with applicable state law, as stated in the October 2009 Ogden Memorandum, we maintain the authority to enforce the CSA 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.

Hopefully this letter assists the Montana Legislature in making its decisions regarding the cultivation, manufacture and distribution of marijuana.


/s/ Michael W. Cotter
Michael W. Cotter
United States Attorney



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