White House Weighs Legal Action against States that Legalized Marijuana Use

Washington’s new legal weed laws go into effect today. Last night, the Obama Administration finally broke its silence on marijuana’s new state-level legal status in Washington and in Colorado, where it’ll officially become legal in a few weeks.

White House and Justice Department officials are considering plans for legal action against Washington and Colorado that could undermine voter-approved initiatives to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in those states. Photo: Public Information Office/Flickr

Senior White House and Justice Department officials are considering plans for legal action against Colorado and Washington that could undermine voter-approved initiatives to legalize the recreational use of marijuana in those states, according to several people familiar with the deliberations.

It is known that voters in Washington and Colorado last month made those the first states to decriminalize and regulate the recreational use of marijuana. Washington’s law takes effect on Thursday and allows adults over 21 to have up to an ounce of pot — but it bans public use of marijuana, which is punishable by a $100 fine, just like drinking in public. Colorado’s law is set to take effect by Jan. 5.

However, with cannabis still illegal under United States law, through the Controlled Substances Act, Washington could face a crackdown by federal agents from the FBI and Drug Enforcement Agency.

The drug remains banned from federal property in the state, including military bases and national parks.

And now Obama administration has been holding high-level meetings since the election to debate the response of federal law enforcement agencies to the decriminalization efforts, reports the New York Times.

The White House claims that the Obama Administration has consistently reiterated its firm opposition to any form of drug legalization.

Together with Federal partners and state and local officials, the Office of National Drug Control Policy is working to reduce the use of marijuana and other illicit drugs through development of strategies that fully integrate the principles of prevention, treatment, recovery, and effective supply reduction efforts.

Proposals such as legalization that would promote marijuana use are inconsistent with this public health and safety approach

The problem is that the Justice Department spoke without really saying anything, write the DeathandTaxes Magazine.

“Regardless of any changes in state law, including the change that will go into effect on Dec. 6 in Washington state, growing, selling or possessing any amount of marijuana remains illegal under federal law,” the DOJ said last night. “The department’s responsibility to enforce the Controlled Substances Act remains unchanged.”

“It’s a sticky wicket for Obama,” said Bruce Buchanan, a political science professor at the University of Texas at Austin, saying any aggressive move on such a high-profile question would be seen as “a slap in the face to his base right after they’ve just handed him a chance to realize his presidential dreams.”

In his first term the Obama administration took unprecedented steps to send Feds into California to bust marijuana dispensaries that are legal at the state level.

And now It is very possible that Obama would break a campaign promise he’s already split hairs over: That his administration will not go after people who smoke marijuana for medicinal reasons.

Savage makes it seem as if there are people in Washington who are more than happy to take that route: Apparently some law enforcement officials are so “alarmed at the prospect that marijuana users in both states could get used to flouting federal law openly,” that they “are said to be pushing for a stern response.”

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