Many people call it a historic turn of events; some are rejoicing, while others are shaking their heads. The United States federal government, meanwhile, is moving on to matters “more important” than letting its citizens enjoy a little pot.
The Obama administration has once again sparked a frenzy of political and public discussions, arguments and protests when it announced on August 29 that it will not sue to impede nor reverse marijuana legalization laws in 20 states and the District of Columbia.
While each state has varying limitations on marijuana use – mostly confined to medical purposes – Colorado and Washington state stand out as the first states to have legalized the use of marijuana not only for medical reasons but also for recreation. Citizens in the two states have set the process in motion in November last year when they voted in favor of the legalization of the possession and use of the product in small amounts.
The Justice Department said in a statement that it will not challenge the legalization of recreational marijuana use in Colorado and Washington state at the time being, but it expects that stringent regulations will be implemented in the two states.
The department further emphasized that the federal government will then refocus “marijuana enforcement” on what are considered criminal activities. These include the distribution of marijuana to minors, interstate trafficking, illegal cartel and gang activities, and other marijuana-related offenses and acts of violence.
The president himself said in December that it no longer makes sense to focus on recreational marijuana users in states that have legalized the drug. Obama has also admitted to using marijuana in his youth.
Marijuana advocates such as the Drug Policy Alliance hailed the decision as a “political vision and foresight” that they have been waiting to see for a long time. Other groups go as far as saying that the legalization of marijuana may help ease congested prisons and reallocate efforts previously “wasted” on chasing “petty potheads.” Some believe it has the potential to boost the US economy by creating legitimate jobs and generating taxes.
On another side of the issue, staunch anti-drug organizations have also expressed strong reactions to what they call an act of “surrender” of the federal government to an increasingly pro-marijuana America.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has called the government’s decision a “mistake”, while Drug Free America Foundation Executive Director Calvina Fay boldly criticized the justice department, stating that the changing laws will subject young Americans to “chemical slavery.”
Addressing such protests, the Justice Department said that it has the authority to preempt state regulations should they fail to adhere to the established guidelines.
Jeffrey Reisman is a respected criminal lawyer. Jeffrey’s criminal law practice focuses on several areas including theft charges, murder charges, assault and domestic assault. He is also an accomplished dui lawyer.