Friday, August 30, 2013

Feds Won't Challenge Pot Legalization in Washington, Colorado

Posted By on Fri, Aug 30, 2013 at 10:00 AM

When voters in the states of Colorado and Washington decided in 2012 that they wanted to legalize the use of recreational marijuana, the big question was: What will the U.S. Justice Department, which has adamantly prosecuted cannabis cases, do? The answer came Aug. 29: nothing.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called the governors of Colorado and Washington to say that his department, for now, would not seek to trump the new state laws. Marijuana would still be considered illegal under the federal Controlled Substance Act, but Holder said he had sent orders to federal prosecutors to focus on other enforcement priorities: prevent pot distribution to minors, prevent cannabis-connected DUIs, stop drug trafficking by gangs and cartels, and forbid the cultivation of marijuana on public lands. The guidelines also ease up-until-now strict rules on banks, giving lenders some leeway to provide lending to marijuana-based businesses, so long as they don't violate the other priorities being assigned to federal prosecutors.

"We want to thank the attorney general for working with the states on this and for finding a way that allows our initiative to move forward while maintaining a commitment to fighting illegal drugs," said Washington Gov. Jay Inslee and Attorney General Bob Ferguson in a written statement. "This reflects a balanced approach by the federal government that respects the states' interests in implementing these laws and recognizes the federal government's role in fighting illegal drugs and criminal activity," they added.

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