The word on Thursday from the Justice Department was that it wouldn’t file anti-marijuana federal suits against any of the twenty states that have legalized marijuana for medical and/or recreational uses. People who favor the end of the prohibition of this drug considered this an important first step towards that goal.
In a nationwide memo from the deputy attorney general James M. Cole to federal prosecutors, he dispelled any lingering questions about the government’s response to state laws that have legalized marijuana for medical and/or recreational uses.
Mr. Cole gave as the main reason why federal prosecutors wouldn’t demand mandatory minimum sentences for marijuana possession “limited prosecutorial resources.” In other words, it was too much of an economic burden to the government to continue prosecuting people for possessing pot.
However, in return, the memo mentions that the Justice Department wants the states who legalize marijuana to have on the books and enforce laws regarding prohibiting sales to minors, cartel and gang involvement with the drug, taking it across state lines to illegally sell it, and accidents and violence due to marijuana use.
Colorado and Washington are perhaps the two best-known examples of states which have had voters approve measures decriminalizing marijuana for recreational uses. However, there are 18 other states, and Washington D.C., where voters have approved the medicinal use of the drug.
Marijuana was once considered to be a “menace to public health,” and movies such as Reefer Madness proclaimed the many evils of marijuana. Today, though, the perspectives of a large segment of the population has shifted regarding marijuana. Even Doctor Sanjay Gupta is a supporter of the decriminalization of the drug.
According to marijuana advocates, if states are allowed to legalize and regulate marijuana, legal backlogs and jail populations could be greatly reduced. Jobs by the thousand could potentially be created, and states would benefit from the taxes on the marijuana.
Though proponents of the legalization of marijuana support the news from the federal government and hail it as a step towards the legalization of marijuana across the United States, some members of law enforcement believe that he actions the federal government are taking sends the “wrong message.”
They warn that there would be more accidents caused by impaired drivers, and more criminals would get involved in the trafficking of the drug.
With the new federal guidelines mentioned in the memo in place, marijuana dispensaries and cultivation centers would no longer be potential targets of federal prosecution.
The clarification of how the federal government will handle cases where state laws regarding marijuana differ from federal laws is a relief to many people, including some members of congress, such as Representative Jared Polis (Dem.) of Colorado.
According to Polis:
It’s a relief. It’ll get the criminal element out of the marijuana trade. It’ll provide legitimate business opportunities for everything from farmers to processors to retail store owners.”
Though President Obama has stated that he is not a proponent of changing federal laws regarding the regulation of marijuana. Federal laws consider marijuana to be a dangerous drug with no legitimate medical uses.
Focusing on drug kingpins and traffickers, according to Josh Earnest, a White House spokesman, would be a better course of action.
For now, at any rate, it seems as if the Obama administration is taking the policy of allowing the states to carry out their experiments in decriminalizing marijuana, and there will be no anti-marijuana federal suits filed against the states.
Written by: Douglas Cobb