Feds Reaffirm That They Will Not Likely Challenge State Legalization Laws

Speaking today before the US Senate Judiciary Committee, Deputy Attorney General James Cole reaffirmed that the Justice Department is unlikely to challenge statewide marijuana legalization efforts, provided that these efforts impose “robust regulations” which discourage sales to minors and seek to prevent the diversion of cannabis to states that have not yet legalized its use.

“We will not … seek to preempt state ballot initiatives,” Cole told members of the Committee, adding that state “decriminalization [laws] can co-exist with federal [drug] laws.”

In an August 29 Department of Justice memorandum, Deputy Attorney General Cole previously directed the US Attorneys in all 50 states not to interfere with the implementation of state marijuana regulations, unless such activities specifically undermined eight explicit federal law enforcement priorities.

In response to a question from Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Cole also stated that federal prosecutors should utilize similar discretion and not interfere with the activities of state-compliant cannabis dispensaries, as long as their actions “are not violating any of the eight federal enforcement priorities” outlined here. Rhode Island is one of six states, as well as Washington, DC, that presently licenses the production and distribution of medical cannabis. Six additional states are expected to enact similar licensing regulations in the coming months.

Several Senators and witnesses questioned whether the Justice Department would consider amending federal financial regulations which presently inhibit state-compliant cannabis businesses from taking standardized tax deductions and partnering with conventional financial institutions. Deputy Attorney General Cole responded that such proposed changes in law were arguably the responsibility of Congressional lawmakers, not the Justice Department.

Commenting on the hearing, NORML Communications Director Erik Altieri said, “For the first time in modern history, members of the US Congress and the Justice Department were not discussing furthering cannabis prohibition, but instead were testifying to the merits of cannabis legalization and regulation.”

Today’s hearings marked the first time that members of Congress have explicitly weighed in on the conflict between state and federal marijuana laws since voters in Colorado and Washington elected to legalize the retail production and sale of the plant this past November. The hearing was called for by Senate Judiciary Chairmen Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who acknowledged that the federal government “must have a smarter approach to marijuana policy.” Witnesses at today’s hearing also included King County, Washington Sheriff John Urquhart — a vocal supporter of the state’s new legalization law — and Jack Finlaw, Chief Legal Council for the Colorado Governor’s Office.

Archived video of today’s US Senate Judiciary hearing is online here.

66 thoughts

  1. Norml,

    Are those that hold office subject to random drug testing? I would think politicians would want to lead by example. Or is it a more of a pee from thee but not from me?


    [Editor’s note: Pathetically, Congress has exempted themselves from drug testing. State and local politicians could be drug tested, but unlikely after a 1997 Supreme Court decision striking down the practice as conceived at the time. The case centered around NORML Legal Committee member, attorney Walker Chandler of Georgia.]

  2. @Demonhype – Perhaps we should start practicing for that dance! Hopefully, prohibitionists like Kevin Sabet don’t have much longer to spread their lies and continue their fear-mongering; or even to live for that matter! Another person whose grave I’d love to dance on is Melinda (HAG) Haag’s!

    The sooner the better! These people have ruined the lives of many good Americans and their demise can’t come soon enough to satisfy!

  3. Keep the Faith and continue to support norml. Politicians need their arms twisted so contact them and urge your friends to do the same.

    Politicians come and go norml will stay until Justice is served.

  4. We are still facing the same dilemma, until the federal government reschedules it or better yet turns it over to the BATF as an intoxicant can they collect taxes on it legally. How can state authorized stores report income from trafficking a controlled substance without incriminating themselves?

  5. i get sick when i read ohio normal news! nothing but a bunch of self rightious assholes if i could i’d move. there’s nothing to do in ohio. unless you live in a major town {which i have}. as it is all on ohio normal is against. change will come regardless, more of us then them.

  6. I’m not holding my breath. while the 8 guidelines they listed are actually reasonable, they left the gold ol’ vague political speak in. I’m willing to bet the moment anything remotely bad happens, they will send their thugs in to wreak havoc.

  7. A couple of years ago, I built a house for some clients in the Johnson City area of Texas. They did a criminal backround check on me and discovered I had a marijuana posession charge from when I was fished out of Canyon Lake at 21 by the “mounties”– or Comal County Sheriff’s Office. I had paid to get my record expunged, but Comal County placed my mugshot up on line as they did anyone who had ever been arrested in that county… regardless of completed community service or “deferred adjudication.”
    The clients said ” Oh that? Posessions of Cannabis? We don’t care… so on to our flooring selections…”
    And I got the job anyway. God Bless America.

  8. I am inviting the government haters of both parties to the page. It is educational and informative. I don’t think that this has been done before but I am going to do this. I hope that since it is elections, they will gain a cannabis education and hopefully open the lines of communication between us so we can let them know how we feel. It’s time that things change. . It’s going to take me awhile as I am going to try to get everything changed. It’s time all our government learned the truth. I’m doing my part. Wish me luck.

  9. So, along with this is/was the Congressional Hearing on Marijuana Legalization.

    Has anything yet come of this?

    Are things in motion?

    I have not been able to find much useful information to determine which way the wind blows.

  10. @vickia52: Not sure where you live, but not to worry. From what I’ve read, it’s been shown that 73% of Ohioans favor medical marijuana–and the overall legalization support is not much lower than that and still in the clear majority range. Not sure what you’re talking about with the sanctimonious people and whatnot, but I’m assuming your talking about anti-legalization douches trolling the Ohio NORML site. This is an extinction burst and a tantrum. Don’t forget, businesses love the drug war. It allows them to not only invade their employees’ most intimate privacy in the name of “safety” and “productivity”, but it preps the minds of workers to accept even more invasions (such as constant surveillance of private email and social networking pages, for example) through the psychological phenomenon of “submissive urination”.

    Plus they get hefty tax breaks and kickbacks from drug testing their employees using our tax dollars–effectively forcing us to pay for our own violation–and, of course, the satisfaction of believing it gives them political points as being “hard” on crime and taking a “no tolerance” stand in favor of the Drug War (yes, the solid majority of Americans oppose the Drug War, but the powerful are the last to know, and the invested are the last to care, and they’re still holding onto that hope that they can fearmonger us back into the days when “Reefer Madness” was considered an accurate and fair portrayal of marijuana.)

    What I’m saying is that the side that makes the most noise, the side that throws the biggest and most noticeable tantrum, is not necessarily the side that represents the majority opinion. It’s often the losing side–in particular, the side that has had unearned and unquestioned power and privilege for some time, has gotten accustomed to such, and feels it going bye bye, poor babies.

    Not to mention that the pro-Drug War anti-legalization side has more rich corporate aristocrats on its side, so has more money to throw at the issue. And many corporations have been known to pay people to troll the internet and derail any conversation they don’t want people to have. Many of the people flooding those sites are likely to be paid stooges for drug testing companies and other such Drug War profiteers who can sense their money train is about to stop and are trying desperately to keep it going.

    @miles: YEAH! Full choreography! Let’s get some more people and we can form a giant spinning MJ leaf! (Also Michele Leonheart. I’d love to dance on that fascist’s grave.)

  11. I’ve just found that NORML has a list of politicians and how they stand on legalization. Thanks to NORML I’ll have a much easier time voting.

  12. The feds will wait until your business enterprise develops a healthy profit, then they will decide if they want to take what you earn without due process.

  13. firm believer marijuana needs to be legalized across the board. No more arrests and plenty of tax money to benefit everyone

  14. Question, if you live say in Ohio, and you go to Colorado for Vac and smoke pot while there…then a few weeks later you get tested at your job in Ohio can they fire you? if what you did was legal when and where you did it how can you be punished for it someplace else. That’s no different from gong to Nevada and enjoying a hooker then going home and getting arrested for it because of residue on your……

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