What Will the Feds Do About Legal Marijuana?

It doesn’t matter what the citizens of states like Washington and Colorado say, marijuana is still against federal law. And despite the fact that this nation is founded on democratic principles, the federal government’s next play now that Colorado and Washington have legalized recreational marijuana, is anyone’s guess. So, what are their options? What could the feds do to stop the party?

The federal government has several options. Each one is based on the fact that marijuana, whether used for medicinal or recreational purposes, violates the Controlled Substances Act which is federal law. The state of Colorado, for example, might say that it’s okay for a citizen to possess up to one ounce of pot as of January 5, but the federal government believes their law trumps the will of the people and the law they’ve passed.

The feds haven’t said anything that would indicate their plans, other than stating the obvious that the new laws of Colorado and Washington violate federal law. But, they could choose to either clamp down and make things very difficult for the people of those states or they could just wait and see what happens, allowing the states to be a sort of the “laboratories of democracy,” as stated by Art Way, the drug policy manager for the Drug Policy Alliance.

They could also do what they’ve done with medical marijuana laws by saying they aren’t interested in the individual users and focusing instead on dispensaries or those who stand to make money off of the trade of marijuana. Though the Obama Administration said initially that they would make enforcement of the marijuana drug laws in relation to medicinal marijuana the “lowest priority”, they have gone on to raid more dispensaries than any other administration.

Finally, they could sue the states, charging that “Colorado’s or Washington state’s retail provisions conflict with the Controlled Substances Act,” according to CBS News.

While the hope is that they will sit back and allow the state’s to handle their own business, many think that’s not likely in light of how they’ve treated medical marijuana laws which were also enacted by majority.

One thing most agree on, however, is that the feds won’t be interested in popping a recreational user for possession of less than one ounce (the amount that is allowed under the new laws). If and when the federal government strikes back on the residents of these states for passing such laws, it will likely be focused on penalizing the state (through a lawsuit) or the people that stand to make money off  of the newly legal trade.

If you are charged with a marijuana offense, no matter what state you live in, you need someone on your side. Just because the vast majority of American’s don’t see pot as a problem, doesn’t mean the courts feel the same way.

About Elizabeth

Elizabeth Renter is a freelance writer and editor who writes about criminal justice issues.

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