Marijuana: Obama Administration Backs Off on Pot Enforcement (Again)
The federal government will officially stand back when it comes to enforcing its anti-weed laws in states where marijuana is legal.
Susan Slade Photography for LA Weekly
So says a memo from Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole today. Some in the pro-pot world were cautiously optimistic, noting that the Obama administration has said one thing but done another (particularly in L.A., where feds have cracked down on dispensaries despite promises to not do so):
The memo maintains that "marijuana is a dangerous drug" and that "sale of marijuana is a serious crime that provides a significant source of revenue to large-scale criminal enterprises, gangs and cartels."
But it goes on to say that in jurisdictions such as California, where pot has been legalized "in some form," local law enforcement "should remain the primary means of addressing marijuana-related activity."
This hands-off memo has been taken to address mainly Colorado and Washington, which have fully legalized low-weight, recreational cannabis, but as you can see above, it also reiterates the feds' stance on medical pot in places like the Golden State.
The memo says things will continue to be taken on a "case-by-case basis," which might explain why agents continue to crack down on pot shops in places like Echo Park.
Joseph Adams / Flickr
As such, the pro-pot community was guarded in its response, seeing that President Obama himself has said marijuana enforcement in medical legal states should not be a federal priority.
Steph Sherer, executive director of Americans for Safe Access:
While we're hopeful that the Justice Department will adhere to these policies, our experience with the Obama administration so far has been lots of double talk. In order to gain the trust of Americans, Obama's U.S. Attorneys must stop their aggressive and unnecessary enforcement campaigns in medical marijuana states.
Norm Stamper, retired Seattle police chief and an advisory member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition's board of directors:
While we know the federal government has reversed course on this sort of announcement in the past, this has the potential to be a major advancement in the history of drug reform. Allowing states to legalize and regulate marijuana will funnel millions of dollars of profits from the criminal organizations that have controlled the trade into the hands of legitimate businesses that check IDs and create jobs and badly needed tax revenues. For me, this means my fellow officers will be able to focus on their real job of preventing and solving violent crime, increasing their ability to do that job and returning honor to the profession of policing.
We shall see.