More than six months after Washington and Colorado passed ballot initiatives to legalize and regulate recreational marijuana, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said today he would not sue to block the implementation of the laws — at least not until he sees how the laws operate in effect. This announcement came as little surprise, after reports from earlier communication between DOJ and the governor.
More significantly, the Department of Justice also issued new guidance to prosecutors today calling for scaled back prosecution not just of users of marijuana, but also of distributors and growers complying with state law.
The guidance includes this passage:
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 listed above. Rather, prosecutors should continue to review marijuana cases and on a case-by-case basis and weigh all available information and evidence, including, but not limited to, whether the operation is demonstrably in compliance with a strong and effective regulatory system.
So yes, big change from raiding large pot growers just because they are large pot growers. This is a big step in the right direction for the Justice Department, and the second major signal this month that the US has al but admitted to losing the War on Drugs.
And it's about damn time.