The Administration Mellows On Marijuana

by Patrick Appel

DOJ Marijuana Memo by tpmdocs

This embed is invalid


Yesterday the DOJ released the above memo, which indicates that it won’t sue to prevent Colorado or Washington state from legalizing marijuana. Sullum analyzes the document:

There is plenty of wiggle room there for the Justice Department, which can decide at any point that “state enforcement efforts are not sufficiently robust” and move to shut down state-licensed growers and retailers. The experience with medical marijuana, where promises of forbearance led to a “green rush” of cannabusinesses that prompted a crackdown, suggests no one should get too excited about the Obama administration’s willingness to tolerate deviations from prohibitionist orthodoxy. Furthermore, no matter how intrusive the Justice Department turns out to be in practice, all bets are off in the next administration. Still, this wishy-washy yellow light for legalization is better than might have been expected based on Obama’s broken promises regarding medical marijuana.

Kleiman’s read on the situation:

This makes it somewhat safer to be a state-licensed cannabis grower or retailer, but it doesn’t make it safe.

Today’s policy statement – as opposed to a binding rule, which would be part of the U.S. Attorneys Manual explicitly does not constrain the discretion of the United States Attorneys in Washington and Colorado. It creates no rights or remedies. It is subject to revision at any time, and that revision would have retroactive effects.

Pete Guither’s view:

Some of you surely are questioning the sanity of those who are releasing statements of exuberance about this announcement. However, I do understand at least one reason for doing so. Since the administration is playing the “game” of appearing to be reasonable while not actually committing to anything real, a tactic by the other side can be to publicly accept that “appearance” as something real, in order to cement that impression with the public. Thus, when the administration acts in a contrary manner, the public will view the administration as double-dealing once again.

Sullum rounds up other responses to the announcement.