The federal government says it will not try to block states from legalizing marijuana – so long as they put in place strict rules governing sales and distribution.
Colorado and Washington state last year approved the possession of small quantities of cannabis for recreational purposes, putting them at odds with national drug laws.
In its memo to federal prosecutors this week, the Justice Department said it would not try to block legalization initiatives but instead outlined eight specific areas of enforcement. Those include preventing marijuana trafficking and the distribution of marijuana to minors, and stopping revenues from going to gangs and cartels. Prosecutors will also block the possession of marijuana on federal property.
In response to the Justice Department memo, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper said, “We share with the federal government its priorities going forward.” Washington Governor Jay Inslee said it was “a balanced approach … that respects the states’ interests”.
In Colorado, Amendment 64 advocates like Marijuana Policy Project spokesman Mason Tvert welcomed the announcement. “The federal government has, for the first time, clearly signaled that states can move forward with implementing their own marijuana policies as long as they’re done in a responsible fashion that addresses federal priorities,” said Tvert.
Marijuana remains illegal under federal law, and Tvert is urging Congress to change national drug policy: “Right now our federal marijuana laws are broken and it’s time for Congress to fix them as opposed to simply working around them.” he said.