FedSoc Blog

DOJ Remains Silent on New State Laws Decriminalizing Marijuana


by Publius
Posted December 12, 2012, 8:38 AM

The Hill reports:

Laws legalizing the recreational use of marijuana in Colorado and Washington state have exposed a wide disconnect between Congress, the administration and voters on an increasingly controversial issue. 

The newly enacted laws put President Obama in a tricky spot, as evidenced by the Justice Department’s (DOJ) monthlong silence on the matter, despite pleas from lawmakers and the states’ governors for a concrete position. 



The DOJ is charged with enforcing the federal prohibition on marijuana, and the state laws run counter to the long-existing ban, creating a debate over which law should be enforced and which law is most responsive to the will of the people. 

Marijuana has been a centerpiece of the federal government’s “war on drugs,” aimed at cracking down on drug use in the United States. But the growing number of people who support the decriminalization of pot — which is still legally classified nationally in the same category as heroin — has some policymakers in Washington, D.C., rethinking their approach.

“The voters of Colorado have spoken,” said Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.) in an interview with The Hill. “I’m certainly opposed to the direction that the state is going, but I respect the will of voters and the process.

“Either the Justice Department needs to recognize, in its enforcement, the state’s right to choose, or we need conforming legislation at a federal level.”

Many supporters of the new rules are hoping the administration moves to moderate the DOJ’s prosecution of marijuana possession, cultivation and distribution in Colorado and Washington state. 

The Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) told The Hill that while it has not received any revised investigatory directives from the administration since the laws were enacted, the agency prioritizes large-scale cultivation and distribution networks over smaller personal use and distribution when it considers which cases to spend time and money on. 

According to the most recent Gallup poll, released this week, 64 percent of people think the federal government should not enforce national law prohibiting marijuana use in Colorado or Washington state. And 87 percent of people polled said marijuana should be legal throughout the country.


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