The Obama administration has ended the policy of federal enforcement of medical marijuana patients and dispensers in states where use of the drug is permitted for certain illnesses, Attorney General Eric Holder has announced.

The Justice Department has developed a new set of guidelines that will serve as the administration's policy statement on the issue.

However, individuals will be prosecuted who violate the state laws or commit other crimes such as illegal drug trafficking, unlawful use of firearms, violence, sales to minors, money laundering, possessing amounts of marijuana inconsistent with purported compliance with state or local law, marketing or excessive financial gains inconsistent with state or local law, illegal possession or sale of other controlled substances, and ties to criminal enterprises.

"It will not be a priority to use federal resources to prosecute patients with serious illnesses or their caregivers who are complying with state laws on medical marijuana, but we will not tolerate drug traffickers who hide behind claims of compliance with state law to mask activities that are clearly illegal," Holder said in a statement. "This balanced policy formalizes a sensible approach that the Department has been following since January: effectively focus our resources on serious drug traffickers while taking into account state and local laws."

Fourteen states including California, Colorado and Michigan, have enacted laws in some form addressing the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

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