Feds won't sue to stop marijuana use in 2 states

The federal government will not make it a priority to block marijuana legalization in Colorado or Washington or close down recreational marijuana stores, so long as the stores abide by state regulations.
Associated Press
Aug 30, 2013


Despite 75 years of federal marijuana prohibition, the Justice Department said Thursday that states can let people use the drug, license people to grow it and even allow adults to stroll into stores and buy it — as long as the weed is kept away from kids, the black market and federal property.

In a sweeping new policy statement prompted by pot legalization votes in Washington and Colorado last fall, the department gave the green light to states to adopt tight regulatory schemes to oversee the medical and recreational marijuana industries burgeoning across the country.

The action, welcomed by supporters of legalization, could set the stage for more states to legalize marijuana. Alaska is scheduled to vote on the question next year, and a few other states plan similar votes in 2016.

The policy change embraces what Justice Department officials called a "trust but verify" approach between the federal government and states that enact recreational drug use.

In a memo to all 94 U.S. attorneys' offices around the country, Deputy Attorney General James Cole said the federal government expects that states and local governments authorizing "marijuana-related conduct" will implement strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems that address the threat those state laws could pose to public health and safety.

"If state enforcement efforts are not sufficiently robust ... the federal government may seek to challenge the regulatory structure itself," the memo stated.

The U.S. attorney in Colorado, John Walsh, said he will continue to focus on whether Colorado's system has the resources and tools necessary to protect key federal public safety interests.

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said the state is working to improve education and prevention efforts directed at young people and on enforcement tools to prevent access to marijuana by those under age 21. Colorado also is determined to keep marijuana businesses from being fronts for criminal enterprises or other illegal activity, he said, and the state is committed to preventing the export of marijuana while also enhancing efforts to keep state roads safe from impaired drivers.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee also laid out guidelines for marijuana entrepreneurs.

"If you don't sell this product to children, if you keep violent crime away from your business, if you pay your taxes and you don't use this as a front for illicit activity, we're going to be able to move forward," Inslee said.

Under the new federal policy, the government's top investigative priorities range from preventing the distribution of marijuana to minors to preventing sales revenue from going to criminal enterprises, gangs and cartels and preventing the diversion of marijuana outside of states where it is legal.

Other top-priority enforcement areas include stopping state-authorized marijuana activity from being used as a cover for trafficking other illegal drugs and preventing violence and the use of firearms in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana. The top areas also include preventing drugged driving, preventing marijuana cultivation and possession on federal property.

The Justice Department memo says it will take a broad view of the federal priorities. For example, in preventing the distribution of marijuana to minors, enforcement could take place when marijuana trafficking takes place near an area associated with minors, or when marijuana is marketed in an appealing manner to minors or diverted to minors.

Following the votes in Colorado and Washington last year, Attorney General Eric Holder launched a review of marijuana enforcement policy that included an examination of the two states. The issue was whether they should be blocked from operating marijuana markets on the grounds that actively regulating an illegal substance conflicts with federal drug law that bans it.

Peter Bensinger, a former head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, said the conflict between federal and state law is clear and can't be reconciled. Federal law is paramount, and Holder is "not only abandoning the law, he's breaking the law. He's not only shirking his duty, he's not living up to his oath of office," Bensinger said.

Last December, President Barack Obama said it doesn't make sense for the federal government to go after recreational drug users in a state that has legalized marijuana. Last week, the White House said that prosecution of drug traffickers remains an important priority.

A Pew Research Center poll in March found that 60 percent of Americans think the federal government shouldn't enforce federal anti-marijuana laws in states where its use has been approved. Younger people, who tend to vote more Democratic, are especially prone to that view. But opponents are worried these moves will lead to more use by young people. Colorado and Washington were states that helped re-elect Obama.

Advocates of medical marijuana were cautious about the new policy. Twenty states and the District of Columbia have enacted laws that effectively allow patients to access and use medical marijuana. Threats of criminal prosecution and asset forfeiture by U.S. attorneys have closed more than 600 dispensaries in California, Colorado and Washington over the past two years, said Americans for Safe Access, which advocates for safe and legal access to therapeutic cannabis.

Dan Riffle of the Marijuana Policy Project, the nation's largest marijuana policy organization, called the policy change "a major and historic step toward ending marijuana prohibition" and "a clear signal that states are free to determine their own policies."

Kevin Sabet, the director of Project Smart Approaches to Marijuana, an anti-legalization group, predicted the new Justice Department policy will accelerate a national discussion about legalization because people will see its harms — including more drugged driving and higher high school dropout rates.

Kristi Kelly, a co-founder of three medical marijuana shops near Denver, said the Justice Department's action is a step in the right direction.

"We've been operating in a gray area for a long time. We're looking for some sort of concrete assurances that this industry is viable," she said.

A national trade group, the National Cannabis Industry Association, said it hopes steps will be taken to allow marijuana establishments access to banking services. Federally insured banks are barred from taking money from marijuana businesses because the drug is still banned by the federal government.



Kudo to the Pres. for making the right decision.


If the government doesn't fight against this they will be everywhere shortly.

Keep the masses drunk, high and provide gambling so they won't care what shape our country is in.

thinkagain's picture



Why do you think this way? Indoctrinated by the corporate owned news media and their lies? Not everyone wants to get drunk and high. Some people are looking for relief from the various illnesses including stress and depression. Stress and depression will cause many illnesses. Did you know that many elderly people in nursing homes do not have dementia? I have read about many who were doped up on Big Pharma's drugs that caused the dementia. Once the patient stopped taking the drugs, the patient's mind came back and the dementia vanished.


I must respectfully disagree. We are not in uncharted waters here. Many other countries have legalized marijuana useage and have not only seen a decrease in crime as a result, there is actually a decrease in drug useage across all spectrums. I can guarantee you that smoking pot (although I likely never will) wouldn't make me apathetic.


"President Obama made a joke about his marijuana use at last week's White House Correspondents' Dinner. It was just one joke, and it was actually pretty funny. But should President Obama, arguably history's toughest president on marijuana, really be making jokes about marijuana when he knows our laws are misguided and disastrous but is unwilling to change them?"

"Obama: 'I Remember When BuzzFeed Was Just Something I Did In College Around 2 A.M.' (VIDEO)"

"President Barack Obama alluded to his history as a pot smoker during his remarks at the 2013 White House Correspondents' Dinner."

Obama jokes about his use of cannabis for fun while many sick and dying people are hoping for a natural plant product that could help them. Not only is cannabis a natural medicine for many physical illnesses but also for mental illness. Cannabis has been shown to treat dementia and Alzheimer's disease.

"Researchers at the Roskamp Institute in Florida recently published a study in the journal Molecular and Cellular Neuroscience revealing that cannabinoids could delay the effects of Alzheimer’s disease, and could quite plausibly terminate the disease entirely."

The human body has cannabinoid receptors. Those cannabinoid receptors are there for a reason.

"How Cannabis Protects Us from Cancer and Alzheimer’s Disease."

Cannabis, a cheap way to treat illnesses and a cheap way to prevent illnesses. Big Pharma, the medical industry and medical insurance companies do not want healthy people. They want sick and dying people because that is where the profits are. Nation heath care could be very affordable because cannabis would treat and help prevent many illnesses, both physical and mental.

Don't look for Ohio to legalize cannabis soon. Ohio will wait to be last like they did with casino gambling.

I read that recent Sandusky Register news story about LE going after a few cannabis plants. Why didn't they go after poison ivy or the giant hog weeds that is very harmful to the human body. What a joke of a state that Ohio is.

And to you ignorant people who know nothing about the medical benefits of cannabis, it can be juiced and taken orally in a food or as an oil, be taken as a liquid such as a tincture, vaporized and inhaled. If smoked, it doesn't take much to get the effects. I have no idea why people want to get "stoned" or "drunk" from alcohol. I can see using cannabis or alcohol for stress but I cannot understand why someone would want to get high, stoned or drunk (alcohol).

People need to stop listening to the LIES put out by the DEA (job security), Big Pharma (profits) and the news media (they help the rich ruling class). Use the internet to educate yourselves. Start thinking for yourselves and stop letting others do the thinking for you.


Who is they? What do you think is already happening? It is a waste of tax dollars to go after recreational marijuana use!

sandtown born a...

It's about time!! Now go after meth, heroin, cocaine and the pill heads is the real problem. I can't ever remember reading a story of someone robbing or killing someone to get more weed

sandtown born a...

Legalize and tax the crap out of it! I give it a couple of years for other states to see the potential for revenue and a waste of law enforcement resources and they will drop the holier than now attitude and jump in.Maybe not in my lifetime but it will be legal everywhere with out a doubt

getit right be4...

Taxing the crap out of everything is not the answer. The government has its hands way to deep in our pockets already.

The government needs to make major cuts in its budget not find ways to tax the crap out of its citizens.

sandtown born a...

So no tax just legalize? Tax it tax it tax it


It's about dam*ed time! Recreational marijuana use is little different than recreational alcohol use EXCEPT that marijuana is a heck of a lot safer. And while alcohol has a dubious medical application or two, marijuana has a host of them, demonstrated in study after study.

There's another story in this online issue of The Sandusky Register that highlights prison overcrowding in the state of Ohio. There was an article yesterday featuring an appalling waste of law enforcemet resources to go out and confiscate a few marijuana plants. Maybe if we stopped prosecuting nonsensical marijuana laws in Ohio, a few prison cells would free up. Certainly if we stopped prosecuting marijuana laws in Ohio, law enforcement could go after REAL criminals!

sandtown born a...


JudgeMeNot's picture

Good one Sam.


First off the headline should have read U.S. Government OK's use of regulated Marijuana. Secondly .it is about time that this product can be legally purchased by the public .This is going to be a huge cash cow for public funded government coffers, as it should be because suppliers need to be taxed for the money they make on this.Anti smoking laws are in place to generate massive amounts of money and once this starts ,it will be very difficult to stop towns and cities to adopt a complete no smoking policy within the limits of the municipality itself. Smoking at home will get you a reduced price on your home if you decide to sell ,for as new legislation will be mandated to protect the underage individuals and folks who do not want this around them. Public housing will feel this first and then more and more ordinances will be passed to suppress this practice of smoking in public generally ,and soon enough lighting up will be just as frustrating and expensive as it is now.

JudgeMeNot's picture

How do Anti smoking laws generate massive amounts of money? And why would my home sell for less?

getit right be4...

Your home would sell for less because it would smell like a ashtray.

I would not buy anything from a smoker.


Sure would like to see the Register have a vote on the Marijuana issue. Many here know EXACTLY what polls would show.


Hemp and Marijuana

Myths & Realities

"This paper is intended to inform that debate by offering scientific evidence, so that farmers, policymakers, manufacturers, and the general public can distinguish between myth and reality."

"Reality: Feral hemp, or ditchweed, is a remnant of the hemp once grown on more than 400,000 acres by U.S. farmers. It contains extremely low levels of THC, as low as .05 percent. It has no drug value, but does offer important environmental benefits as a nesting habitat for birds. About 99 percent of the "marijuana" being eradicated by the federal government-at great public expense-is this harmless ditchweed. Might it be that the drug enforcement agencies want to convince us that ditchweed is hemp in order to protect their large eradication budgets?"

Feral hemp is a noxious weed in many states as is Canadian thistle. The United States is really stupid and headed by some really stupid and ignorant people. Nobody who cultivates marijuana would want to hide it in a hemp field because cross-pollination would ruin the marijuana.

Just west of Ohio is Indiana which classifies feral hemp as a noxious weed. Not in Ohio but feral hemp has been found in all 88 counties of Ohio. Ohio considers feral hemp a drug.

Indiana noxious weeds list

"Indiana Police Waste Millions Trying To Eradicate Ditch Weed"

Feral Hemp Patch with Dr. Dave West