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By Timothy M. Phelps, Tribune Washington Bureau (TNS)

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department says a congressional restriction on medical marijuana enforcement does not apply to individual cases like proceedings against three dispensaries in the San Francisco Bay Area.

In December, Congress added an amendment to a spending bill ordering the Justice Department not to interfere with states that allow the sale of medical marijuana from implementing their laws.

Patrick Rodenbush, a spokesman for the Justice Department, said in a statement Wednesday that it did not believe the amendment applies to cases against individuals or organizations.

Rather, he said, it stops the department from “impeding the ability of states to carry out their medical marijuana laws,” contrary to some claims from people being prosecuted that the amendment blocks such prosecutions.

The narrow interpretation of the law is of particular interest in the Bay Area, where the Justice Department has initiated forfeiture proceedings against three medical marijuana dispensaries it considers to be in violation of federal law.

Henry Wykowski, a lawyer for the dispensaries, said, “I think that the amendment is vague and it hasn’t been interpreted by any court yet. But the language can be read more broadly to encompass such prosecutions.”

(c)2015 Tribune Co., Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC

Photo: Frederic J Brown / AFP

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