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Holder Finally Settles Weed Policy

Eric Holder, US Attorney General, has finally decided to lay out his department’s policy on marijuana for recreational use. In a conference call that included the governors of both Colorado and Washington State, he talked about enforcement priorities and the federal government’s response to our laws. Until now, no one really knew how the conflict between our law and existing federal law would play out. Colorado and Washington are the only two states to have legalized marijuana for recreational use.

The final outcome, according to reporting at CNN, is that federal policing agencies will not seek to prosecute citizens of Colorado for marijuana possession, so long as our residents do not drift outside the lines set in state law. Currently, our law sets a limit of an ounce of marijuana per purchase and allows up to six plants to be grown per adult. It is likely that the feds will continue to target large operations or unlicensed dealers of the drug instead of individuals or legitimate businesses.

Holder also stated that the DoJ will not bring a court action against our state (or Washington). This has been a concern, since a Supreme Court Case could very well mean an injunction that would prevent the law from starting up. Currently, the provisions are set to start in January of 2014.

By not preempting our law, the feds have removed a significant barrier to making legalized weed a success. This ruling means that businesses who were on the fence about investing in marijuana will be more likely to take the risk, although certainly some risk remains. Because this is a policy decision, it could change as quickly as it was instituted. Holder was merely informing our governor of what the current enforcement focus will be, not agreeing to any guarantee. In fact, the US Attorney General is not empowered to change law in any case. All he can do is direct federal prosecutors to pay less attention or to refer marijuana arrests to state authorities.


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