Attorney General Eric Holder announced Thursday that the legalization of cannabis in both Washington and Colorado will be uninhibited by federal interference, a massive overturn of decades of U.S. drug war policy.
Last November, voters in both Colorado and Washington authorised the legalization of marijuana in their states.
The estimated market in Colorado alone for legal cannabis is estimated to be over $US600 million, and the fast-growing industry has had a positive impact on both the local economy and state revenues.
One potential thorn in the industry’s side, however, is the constant specter of federal intervention. Over the past year, federal agents have busted dozens of cannabis businesses in California, where marijuana is medically legal in some localities.
Now that the federal government has announced they do not plan on intervention, the cannabis industry will have one less thing inhibiting it.
In an accompanying memo, Deputy Attorney General James Cole outlined eight priorities for federal prosecutors who enforce marijuana laws. They aim to prevent:
- The distribution of marijuana to minors;
- Revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises, gangs and cartels;
- the diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal under state law in some form to other states;
- State-authorised marijuana activity from being used as a cover or pretext for the trafficking of other illegal drugs or other illegal activity;
- Violence and the use of firearms in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana
- Drugged driving and the exacerbation of other adverse public health consequences associated with marijuana use;
- Growing of marijuana on public lands and the attendant public safety and environmental dangers posed by marijuana production on public lands;
- Preventing marijuana possession or use on federal property.
Here’s the full memo from the Department of Justice. Underneath is the stament from a marijuana business industry group:
Here’s what Aaron Smith, the Executive Director of the National Cannabis Industry Association has to say about the action:
We are encouraged by today’s response from the Obama administration. At the heart of the guidance is a willingness to respect the voters who have decided a regulated marijuana market is preferable to a criminal market in their states. Cannabis-related businesses in these states are creating thousands of jobs and generating tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue. These are clear public benefits.
Now is not the time to push marijuana sales back under ground. The new voter-approved, regulated systems in Colorado and Washington should be allowed to proceed. We have full confidence the businesses in these states will comply with any requirements put forth by the Department of Justice. That is what they do. They comply with rules and provide a service to their customers and their communities. We are pleased to see the Obama administration will not cause harm to citizens and states by shutting these businesses down, and hope this will lead to an expansion of sensible policies related to marijuana such as allowing these businesses access to banking and taxing them at a fair rate.
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