During a conference call with state governors today, Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the US Department of Justice would allow the marijuana legalization laws in Colorado and Washington to go into effect.
Holder announced that the Department of Justice will take a “trust but verify approach” to the new marijuana laws, but did reserve the right to file a preemption lawsuit at a later date if necessary.
In a three page memo issued by Deputy Attorney General Cole, the DOJ clarified they will still retain the right to prosecute individuals who engage in the following circumstances:
-the distribution of marijuana to minors;
-revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises, gangs and cartels;
-the diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal under state law in some form to other states;
-state-authorized marijuana activity from being used as a cover or pretext for the trafficking of other illegal drugs or other illegal activity;
-violence and the use of firearms in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana
-drugged driving and the exacerbation of other adverse public health consequences associated with marijuana use;
-growing of marijuana on public lands and the attendant public safety and environmental dangers posed by marijuana production on public lands;
-preventing marijuana possession or use on federal property.
“This is a historic step forward,” stated NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri, “Assuming the Department of Justice stays true to their word, these states and others will no doubt move forward with the state-licensed regulation of cannabis for adults. The public has evolved beyond the simplistic, failed policies of cannabis prohibition and are seeking pragmatic, regulatory alternatives. It is encouraging to see that the federal government no longer intends to stand in their way.”
Much more on this story as it develops.
You can view the official DOJ memo here.
Washington Governor Jay Inslee released the following statement applauding this move by the Department of Justice:
“We want to thank the Attorney General for working with the states on this and for finding a way that allows our initiative to move forward while maintaining a commitment to fighting illegal drugs. This reflects a balanced approach by the federal government that respects the states¹ interests in implementing these laws and recognizes the federal government’s role in fighting illegal drugs and criminal activity.
Attorney General Holder also expressed a willingness to work with the states on a financial structure that would not run afoul of federal law. The news today is an affirmation of good work by the state Liquor Control Board as it has devised a responsible system of implementing our voter-approved law. We can assure the Attorney General that Washington state will remain vigilant in enforcing laws against the illicit marijuana market. Since voters approved Initiative 502 last year, the state has been working to implement it. Today’s announcement from Attorney General Holder is a confirmation that the process can continue to move forward as planned. We appreciate that the federal government will allow the voice of Washingtonians to be heard on this issue.”