The Justice Department on Thursday said it would not sue to block laws legalizing marijuana in 20 states and the District of Columbia, a move that proponents hailed as an important step toward ending the prohibition of the drug.
In a memo to federal prosecutors nationwide on Thursday, James M. Cole, the deputy attorney general, erased some uncertainty about how the government would respond to state laws making it legal to use marijuana for medical or recreational purposes.
Citing “limited prosecutorial resources,” Mr. Cole explained the change in economic terms. But the memo also made clear that the Justice Department expects states to put in place regulations aimed at preventing marijuana sales to minors, illegal cartel and gang activity, interstate trafficking of marijuana, and violence and accidents involving the drug.
“Limited prosecutorial resources”…I guess that means because Holder is so busy prosecuting the white-collar criminals who brought down the economy four years ago, he doesn’t have resources to go after the potheads. Right?
I know…shut up!
Uh, while marijuana advocates are proclaiming a huge victory, the War on Drugs adherents are only beginning to push back.
The prospect that marijuana could be legalized after a ban of decades drew criticism from law enforcement and drug policy officials. They warned that the Justice Department’s decision would have unintended consequences, like more impaired driving and more criminal marijuana operations.
“This sends the wrong message,” said former Representative Patrick J. Kennedy, who is a recovering prescription drug addict and a founder of Smart Approaches to Marijuana, a policy group. “Are we going to send up the white flag altogether and surrender and say ‘have at it’? Or are we going to try to reduce the availability and accessibility of drugs and alcohol? That should be our mission.”
Not sure what that has to do with prescription drugs, but ok.
The White House said last week that President Obama did not support changing federal laws regulating marijuana, which treat the drug as a dangerous substance with no medical purpose.
Josh Earnest, a White House spokesman, said the president believed it was best to focus on high-level offenders like kingpins and traffickers.
Which would be a first. Literally. Because no “kingpins” are ever prosecuted in the war on drugs, only the street-level, penny ante dealers who are replaced in a nano-second when one of theirs ends up in the big house.
Nonetheless, I’ll grant you this was a significant announcement. I’m not sure if budget cuts are driving it or whether this is Holder/Obama’s end-game all along, but if it temporarily stops the unnecessary and wasteful arrest and prosecution of spliff heads in those states which have now said “dude, bring us your tired, your poor, your weed,” then so be it.
I’d still like to see data from Oregon and Washington state about the effect that legalization has had on other social barometers like property crime, worker productivity, violence, etc. But for now the “state’s rights” argument on this issue seems to be carrying the day in D.C.
Cross posted from The Power-Elite