Will feds take permissive stance on Washington pot?

Posted by Ralph Schwartz on August 26, 2013 

The two biggest questions Washington's purveyors of newly legalized recreational marijuana must confront are, How do we compete with the established, tax-free black-market dealers, and how secure is our business, really, given that the growing and selling of pot remains illegal at the federal level?

NPR reported last week that the state's pot consultant might consider the illegal marijuana trade a "paper tiger," but law enforcement must do something to quell it if the legal recreational marijuana trade is to get off the ground.

"A paper tiger doesn't fall over until you push it. And I don't see anybody right now ready to push," said the consultant, UCLA prof Mark Kleiman.

Turns out, Kleiman has an idea that would resolve both the black-market problem and the federal-government problem.

The Obama administration, he said, should contract with Washington (and Colorado) to go after the illegal dealers. In exchange, the feds would leave alone the growers and sellers who are legal under the state system.

This arrangement should look especially appealing to the Department of Justice, Kleiman said, because it can't afford to go after illegal marijuana all across the country. Besides, the Controlled Substances Act has a provision for just such a contract, Kleiman said.

"When two parties can help each other, there’s the basis for a bargain. And the law provides for precisely such a bargain," he said.

A U.S. senator with some sway on this issue agrees. Given this year's federal cutbacks resulting from sequestration, the DEA really shouldn't be wasting its time or money going after state-sanctioned marijuana traders, said Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont. Leahy, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has invited Attorney General Eric Holder to a meeting of the committee on Sept. 10. The goal will be to make progress, at least, toward the long-awaited answer to the question, What will the feds do about legalized marijuana in Washington and Colorado?

In the intro to a press release, the media relations director for Law Enforcement Against Prohibition said she was "cautiously optimistic" about the committee meeting as a "major step forward in the push for legalization" at the federal level.

At least we in Washington might get some answers that allow some budding entrepreneurs to rest a little easier. (Wait, have I used that pun once already?)

Here is the LEAP press release:




Attorney General Holder Invited to Hearing Scheduled for September 10

WASHINGTON, DC – Today Senator Patrick Leahy (D – VT) invited Attorney General Eric Holder to a September 10 hearing to clarify the federal response to states that have passed marijuana laws in conflict with federal policy. Twenty states and the District of Columbia have legalized medical marijuana, and Colorado and Washington last year became the first places in the world to legalize and regulate marijuana for personal use.

Holder has been saying that an announcement clarifying the federal response to these new state laws would be coming “soon” since last year. In the meantime, the federal government has continued to crack down on medical marijuana providers, leaving states and local communities unsure how best to proceed.

“Just as happened during the prohibition of alcohol, states are well ahead of the federal government in developing sensible marijuana policies,” said retired LAPD Deputy Chief Stephen Downing, board member of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition, a group of law enforcement officers opposed to the war on drugs. “Right now, local law enforcement officers are doing everything they can to enforce these democratically enacted laws, but inconsistencies between stated policy and actions on behalf of the Justice Department have made that impossible.”   



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