Clinton Campaign: Justice Department ‘Nuts’ On Marijuana

The U.S. Department of Justice’s response to state medical marijuana laws is “nuts,” according to the chairman of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

“Okay we have a new position,” John Podesta wrote in an April 2015 email that was released Tuesday following a hack on his account. “We want more research AND we think the Justice Department is nuts.”

Podesta was commenting after receiving an email from Hillary Clinton herself with a link to a New York Times story describing how the Justice Department continues to prosecute medical cannabis providers in states that have laws allowing the use and sale of the drug to patients with doctors’ recommendations.

The news report highlighted how Congress enacted a policy rider preventing the Justice Department from spending money to interfere with the implementation of state medical marijuana policies but that the Obama administration maintained the position that the provision only stops the feds from preventing states themselves from enacting laws and doesn’t shield patients and providers operating under those laws from raids and prosecutions.

In August, a federal court ruled — over Justice Department objections — that the provision has the broader reach that its authors in Congress and medical marijuana advocates say it has. The Obama administration hasn’t yet announced whether it will appeal the case.

In the email from last April, Podesta said that the disagreement amounts to a “fascinating legal question.”

In a separate newly leaked email from Clinton herself, the candidate recounts meeting with Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), who offered to help the campaign refine its approach to marijuana policy reform.

“He wants to support me on policy and fundraising specifically by helping on how to talk about marijuana and the need for fair taxes and banking and on animal welfare concerns which he says are the sleeper issues that will turn out young people and motivate voters,” Clinton wrote. “He has a lot of ideas about what I could do which would be the first time these interests are organized for a presidential campaign. And several states–NV, OH and FL–will have marijuana initiatives on the ballot in 2016.”

Blumenauer is one of the most vocal proponents of marijuana legalization in Congress, and has sponsored several bills and amendments to bring federal policy in line with state laws that allow cannabis use. Last month he told The Hill that he’s had “a couple of conversations” with Clinton about marijuana laws.

“I’m convinced that she will build on or improve what the Obama administration did,” he said.

While not supporting efforts to reform federal law itself, the Obama administration did release a series of memos advising Justice Department officials to largely stay out of the way of state marijuana law implementation, while reserving the right to launch raids and prosecutions in certain instances.

The new emails are two of a handful of messages from the hack that contain nuggets of interest for marijuana policy watchers.

Last week week, was first to report on a message showing that the former secretary of state spoke out against legalizing marijuana behind closed doors in a paid speech at Xerox.

Another message showed that staffers suggested attacking primary campaign rival Martin O’Malley, a former Maryland governor, for evolving too slowly on supporting marijuana decriminalization, even though Clinton herself hasn’t yet clearly and publicly endorsed specific policies that would remove cannabis’s criminal penalties.

A third email contained an attachment laying out the campaign’s proposed talking points to use in response to anticipated Democratic primary debate questions about marijuana policy. That document also revealed Clinton’s position on cannabis businesses’ access to banking services.

And another message contained a transcript of a meeting with Black Lives Matter activists during which Clinton appeared to endorse the “idea of” decriminalizing marijuana while saying she was unsure about the policy specifics.

It has been estimated that less than a third of the hacked Podesta emails in WikiLeaks’s possession have been uploaded so far.

To see what else Hillary Clinton has said about cannabis law reform, check out’s comprehensive guide to the candidates.

Photo Courtesy of Allie Beckett.

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