The U.S. Government made a major policy change on Thursday when the Attorney General, Eric Holder, told the governors of Colorado and Washington that the Justice Department would back off and let them regulate marijuana distribution in their respective states.
According to one official in the Justice Department, the AG advised the governors that His department would assume a “trust but verify” policy with states that legalize marijuana use among legal adults.
Holder pointed out, however, that the Justice Department reserves the right to file a preemptive lawsuit if they feel it becomes necessary. It is the position of the Federal Government that legalizing marijuana violates the U.S. Controlled Substances Act.
James Cole, Deputy Attorney General, sent an instructive memo on this subject to all U.S. Attorneys. According to the memo, the Justice Department expects state and local governments to enact strong enforceable regulations when it comes to their marijuana laws. Should their laws end up posing a threat to public health or safety, the Federal Government may step in.
In fact, Cole’s memo went even instructed U.S. Attorneys about when they should directly get involved. For instance, they are to prosecute individuals who are guilty of distributing marijuana to minors. In addition, they should prosecute when money earned from the sale of marijuana is used to support criminal activities, criminal gangs, or drug cartels.
The U.S. Attorneys will be responsible for interpreting the guidelines as they apply in their individual regions. They will decide who they will prosecute and how they go about it.
To illustrate the point, a Justice Department spokesperson said that a U.S. Attorney would likely prosecute distributors of marijuana who use cartoon characters in their marketing campaigns. Their intent, it was stated, would clearly be to tempt minors to purchase marijuana.