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Feds won’t block legal marijuana in Colorado, Washington

August 29, 2013 by NCC Staff


The Justice Department issued its long-awaiting guidelines on marijuana prosecutions on Thursday, and it looks like Colorado and Washington state will be allowed to keep its legalized pot laws.

USDA/Justice Department Margins WorkshopLINK: Read Memo

Attorney General Eric Holder spoke to the governors of both states on Thursday afternoon. He also issued guidelines to federal prosecutors that the Justice Department, at least for now, won’t pre-empt legalization laws in Colorado and Washington.

Voters approved ballot measures last November that legalized controlled recreational marijuana use in the two states.

Marijuana is still illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act. But Holder, in his memo, set new guidelines for federal prosecutors in all states to follow for federal marijuana cases.

Holder also loosened guidelines for states that have legalized medical marijuana dispensaries. The size and profitability of marijuana businesses remain as factors that prosecutors might consider, but there also must be additional illegal activities for prosecutors to take action.

The memo lists eight priorities for prosecutors enforcing marijuana laws. They include

-- 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;

--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.

It will be up to each U.S. attorney to decide on pursuing prosecutions. The rules also only apply to federal prosecutors and not state prosecutors.

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