Ten months after Colorado and Washington legalized recreational marijuana use, the Obama administration announced on Thursday that it will not sue to enforce federal drug laws in either state, as long as “strict regulatory schemes” are established.
In a memo sent to U.S. attorneys in all 50 states, Deputy Attorney James M. Cole also issued new guidelines for prosecuting marijuana laws, suggesting that U.S. attorneys focus on major cases, rather than individual users. The memo outlined eight high-priority areas for law enforcement groups, which include “preventing distribution of marijuana to minors, preventing the sale of pot to cartels and gangs, preventing sales to other states where the drug remains illegal under state law, and stopping the growing of marijuana on public lands.”
Cole emphasized that marijuana remains illegal under federal law (which still considers it a Schedule 1 drug) and that the Justice Department reserves the right to revisit the issue in the future if the states' regulatory efforts are deemed inadequate.
"These schemes must be tough in practice, not just on paper, and include strong, state-based enforcement efforts, backed by adequate funding," the release said. Leaders in the two states have assured the government that they will impose strict regulations. However, the Justice Department added, "if any of the stated harms do materialize—either despite a strict regulatory scheme or because of the lack of one—federal prosecutors will act aggressively to bring individual prosecutions focused on federal enforcement priorities and the Department may challenge the regulatory scheme themselves in these states."
[Image via AP]