Colorado, Washington State Await Federal Government Response to Marijuana Laws

Officials in Colorado and Washington state are seeking guidance from the federal government in the wake of those states’ approval of recreational marijuana laws, The Washington Post reports.

Voters in Colorado and Washington approved measures to legalize the possession and sale of marijuana for recreational use, becoming the first U.S. states to do so. A similar measure in Oregon was defeated. The measures allow personal possession of up to an ounce of marijuana for anyone at least 21 years old. They also permit marijuana to be sold and taxed at state-licensed stores.

The Justice Department told the newspaper it is reviewing the new laws, but would not provide further comment. The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) said its enforcement of federal law, which outlaws the production, possession and sale of the drug, remains unchanged.

In a statement, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper said, “The voters have spoken and we have to respect their will. This will be a complicated process, but we intend to follow through. That said, federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug so don’t break out the Cheetos or Goldfish too quickly.” A spokesman for the governor said Hickenlooper called the Justice Department on Wednesday for guidance on how the state should proceed. He is expected to speak with Attorney General Eric Holder later this week.

Washington Governor Chris Gregoire said she does not know how the federal government will proceed as the state starts to implement the law.

Before Tuesday’s election, the Justice Department had not taken a strong stand against the state measures. In September, nine former administrators of the DEA wrote a letter to Attorney General Holder, urging him to oppose the three state legalization measures. The letter stated that not opposing the measures would indicate acceptance. The former DEA officials said the measures would pose a direct conflict with federal law.

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    Ben Lee

    February 27, 2013 at 12:52 PM

    Of course the DEA would want to protect their jobs, but the fact of the matter is this: prohibition causes more harm in creating underground markets than the plants or drugs themselves. According to Harvard Economist professor, Jeffery Miron, the fiscal impact of prohibition on society is great.
    Prohibition causes more death, violence, and drug usage than the drugs themselves. Case in point:alcohol prohibition=more deaths and cirrhosis of the liver. More violence due to profit motives (ie Al capone and the untouchables to name one). Now businesses can settle disputes legitimately, in courts, with lawyers. No one buys an unknown product of alcohol from a bootlegger anymore risking methanol poisoning. The same situation with drugs.
    Drugs provide 70% of funding for terrorist groups, domestic gangs, cartels and other organized criminal groups.
    I’m not advocating the use of drugs. I am saying there would be less of a drug problem, less usage, less temptation of trying things with implementation of legalization, taxation, and regulation AND harm reduction information on labeling as well as quality control. There would probably be 95% less deaths if they were all brought into legal-above ground markets.

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