Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the Department of Justice would no longer seek to reverse state law that legalize the use of marijuana. This happened after it was rumored that Arizona would be revising their Cannabis laws for the year 2021 (see Arizona Cannabis Laws 2021 to learn more). However, it still leaves the door open for abuse and harassment by individual US Attornies.
Eric Holder Says DOJ Will Let Washington, Colorado Marijuana Laws Go Into Effect
by Ryan J. Reilly and Ryan Grim, Huffington Post
Deputy Attorney General James Cole also issued a three-and-a-half page memo to U.S. attorneys across the country. “The Department’s guidance in this memorandum rests on its expectation that states and local governments that have enacted laws authorizing marijuana-related conduct will implement strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems that will address the threat those state laws could pose to public safety, public health and other law enforcement interests,” it reads. “A system adequate to that task must not only contain robust controls and procedures on paper; it must also be effective in practice.”
The memo also outlines eight priorities for federal prosecutors enforcing marijuana laws. According to the guidance, DOJ will still prosecute individuals or entities to prevent:
- the distribution of marijuana to minors;
- revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises, gangs and cartels;
- the diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal under state law in some form to other states;
- state-authorized marijuana activity from being used as a cover or pretext for the trafficking of other illegal drugs or other illegal activity;
- violence and the use of firearms in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana drugged driving and the exacerbation of other adverse public health consequences associated with marijuana use;
- growing of marijuana on public lands and the attendant public safety and environmental dangers posed by marijuana production on public lands;
- preventing marijuana possession or use on federal property.
The eight high-priority areas leave prosecutors bent on targeting marijuana businesses with a fair amount of leeway, especially the exception for “adverse public health consequences.” And prosecutors have shown a willingness to aggressively interpret DOJ guidance in the past, as the many medical marijuana dispensary owners now behind bars can attest.
Longtime investigative reporter and co-founder of FAIR, the national media watch group, Martin Lee joined Amy Goodman and Juan González on Democracy Now! to discuss the changes:
“There is so much cultural momentum with respect to marijuana, there is a significant shift in place that the politicians are now starting to catch up to it,” says Martin Lee, longtime investigative reporter and author of several books, including “Smoke Signals: A Social History of Marijuana – Medical, Recreational and Scientific.” He also notes that “the guidance issue made by the Department of Justice yesterday is kind of littered with caveats and red flags.”
Transcript can be read here