US states get approval to legalize pot
Updated: 2013-08-31 08:16
By David Ingram in Washington (China Daily)
"This is going to really quicken the realization among folks that more marijuana in our communities is not a good thing," said Kevin Sabet, co-founder of Smart Approaches to Marijuana.
US Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, the top Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said the Obama administration should not decline to enforce laws that it finds inconvenient or that it does not like.
"This sends the wrong message to both law enforcement and violators of federal law. Apprehending and prosecuting illegal-drug traffickers should always be a priority for the Department of Justice," Grassley said in a statement.
Eight areas in focus
The Justice Department could have sued to block the Colorado and Washington laws from taking effect under the theory that they conflict with the Controlled Substances Act of 1970, the primary US anti-drug law.
Coupled with the decision not to sue, the Justice Department sent a four-page memorandum to federal prosecutors nationwide outlining eight priority areas for marijuana enforcement.
While department officials said they are committed to enforcing federal restrictions on marijuana, prosecutors have now been told not to expend effort on cases unless they fall in one of the eight areas.
The areas include distribution to minors, situations when marijuana revenue is going to other criminal enterprises, trafficking across state lines and growing on public land.
The criteria mean, for example, that federal prosecutors will not charge a marijuana dispensary simply because it is large or profitable, said a Justice Department official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
But the criteria also stop short of guaranteeing immunity for anyone, leaving businesses and individuals open to prosecution if the case fits one of the eight areas, the official said.
Colorado and Washington will need to have regulatory systems to protect against those types of crimes, or else risk giving up the whole experiment, the department said in a statement.
Attorney General Eric Holder had a phone call on Thursday with the governors of Colorado and Washington to inform them of the decisions and told them there would be a "trust but verify" relationship between the Justice Department and the states, said the department official.
State officials said they shared Holder's concerns.
"This reflects a balanced approach by the federal government that respects the states' interests in implementing these laws and recognizes the federal government's role in fighting illegal drugs and criminal activity," Washington Governor Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson, both of whom are Democrats, said in a statement.
(China Daily 08/31/2013 page6)