Washington and Colorado: the empire chills out?

Posted on August 29th, 2013 by Bill Weinberg and tagged , , , , , , , .

cannabisDeputy Attorney General James Cole, the same who authored a notorious 2011 memo asserting that federal cannabis enforcement remains a "core priority" even in states that have passed medical marijuana laws, has just issued a new memorandum seeming to clarify Justice Department reaction to the legalization measures in Colorado and Washington state. While it is written in the usual dense bureaucratese that often hides as much as it reveals, on balance it appears to represent a retreat from the hardline posture the Obama administration has assumed regarding medicinal cannabis over the past two years. The text of the Aug. 29 memo is provided by our comrades at CelebStoner:

In jurisdictions that have enacted laws legalizing marijuana in some form and that have also implemented strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems to control the cultivation, distribution, sale and possession of marijuana, conduct in compliance with those laws and regulations is less likely to threaten the federal priorities… Indeed, a robust system may affirmatively address those priorities by, for example, implementing effective measures to prevent diversion of marijuana outside of the regulated system and to other states, prohibiting access to marijuana by minors, and replacing an illicit marijuana trade that funds criminal enterprises with a tightly regulated market in which revenues are tracked and accounted for. In those circumstances, consistent with the traditional allocation of federal-state efforts in this area, enforcement of state law by state and local enforcement and regulatory bodies should remain the primary means of addressing marijuana-related activity…

The Department's previous memoranda specifically addressed the exercise of prosecutorial discretion in states with laws authorizing marijuana cultivation and distribution for medical use. In those contexts, the Department advised that it likely was not an efficient use of federal resource to focus enforcement efforts on seriously ill individuals, or on their individual caregivers. In doing so, the previous guidance drew a distinction between the seriously ill and their caregivers, on the one hand, and large-scale, for-profit commercial enterprises, on the other, and advised that the latter continued to be appropriate targets for federal enforcement and prosecution. In drawing this distinction, the Department relied on the common-sense judgment that size of a marijuana operation was a reasonable proxy for assessing whether marijuana trafficking implicates the federal priorities…

However, both the existence of a strong and effective state regulatory system, and an operation's compliance with such a system, may allay the threat that an operation's size poses to federal enforcement interests. Accordingly, in exercising prosecutorial discretion, prosecutors should not consider the size or commercial nature of a marijuana operation alone as a proxy for assessing whether marijuana trafficking implicates the Department's enforcement priorities...


"It's significant that U.S. Attorneys will no longer be able to use the size or profitability of a legal marijuana business to determine whether or not it should be a target for prosecution," summed up Tom Angell of the Marijuana Majority, "but the guidelines seem to leave some leeway for the Feds to continue making it hard for state-legal marijuana providers to do business."


Photo by Barbara Doduk



Washington state approves rules for cannabis sale

Global Ganja Report's picture

The Washington State Liquor Control Board adopted rules on Oct. 16 to regulate the recreational sale of marijuana in retail stores. The state will place high taxes on the sales as well as a cap on the total annual production. State officials hope to raise revenue through the taxes and to undercut the illegal market. Applications to open stores will be accepted in November. (Jurist, Oct. 17)

Comment by Global Ganja Report on Oct 27th, 2013 at 1:25 am

Feds raid dozen Denver dispensaries

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On Nov. 21—just weeks before Colorado is to open legal retail marijuana shops—federal agents raided a dozen dispensaries and cannabis facilities in Denver, among other raids around the state. The raids were carried out by the DEA, IRS Criminal Investigations Unit, and the Denver State Police Department. Customers were turned away as masked agents confiscated truckloads of "evidence." (HT, Nov. 21)

Comment by Global Ganja Report on Nov 22nd, 2013 at 12:18 am

Feds raid four Denver cannabis businesses

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Shortly after dawn on April 30, the Drug Enforcement Administration raided four sites related to the Denver medical marijuana dispensary VIP Cannabis, arresting owner Gerardo Uribe on money laundering charges. Masked DEA agents— assisted by other federal agencies and local police—raided the VIP storefront on Alameda Ave, breaking into two safes before busting three Denver grow warehouses linked to VIP, one of which had its metal door ripped from the hinges by the feds as they confiscated evidence. (HT, May 2)

Comment by Global Ganja Report on May 3rd, 2014 at 4:00 pm

Feds raid Colorado grow ops

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Agents from the DEA were assisted by Denver Police in raiding multiple locations throughout the city involved in cannabis cultivation Oct. 29. Authorities seized thousands of plants and up to $1 million in cash as part of the investigation tied to illegal marijuana distribution in Minnesota, an anonymous official said. (AlterNet)

Comment by Global Ganja Report on Oct 31st, 2014 at 5:12 am

Obama gets loose and funky in second term

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President Barack Obama said during a YouTube interview Jan. 22 in response to the host's question: "What you’re seeing now is Colorado, Washington, through state referenda, they’re experimenting with legal marijuana. The position of my administration has been that we still have federal laws that classify marijuana as an illegal substance, but we’re not going to spend a lot of resources trying to turn back decisions that have been made at the state level on this issue. My suspicion is that you’re gonna see other states start looking at this." (HuffPo)

Comment by Global Ganja Report on Jan 25th, 2015 at 1:18 am

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