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Good News, Bad News for Pot

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A recent announcement by US Attorney General Eric Holder is seen as both good and bad news. Holder held a conference call with the Governors of both Washington State and Colorado to clarify the federal government’s position on the legalization of marijuana. He said the feds would not challenge the states’ laws that make marijuana legal for recreation use, but would continue to prosecute offenders who drifted outside the bounds of what is permitted by the state.

That’s seen as good news for dispensaries and others interested in medical marijuana in California, because we’ve seen several cases where federal agents swooped in and busted dispensaries which were operating under California regulations. It’s bad news for those who oppose the use of marijuana, both for medical and recreational use.

In one article in the LA Times, a representative of the Coalition for a Drug Free California is quoted as saying, "Decades from now, the Obama administration will be remembered for undoing years of progress in reducing youth drug use in America." Dr. Paul R. Chabot continued, “This president will be remembered for many failures, but none as large as this one, which will lead to massive youth drug use, destruction of community values, increased addiction and crime rates.”

Holder’s announcement that the Department of Justice will not attempt to block Washington or Colorado law clears the way for those states to proceed with legalization. This means that marijuana will be on sale at retail outlets by next year in both states. It also paves the way for entrepreneurs, many of whom have been loath to take the risk, to move ahead with plans. It should also ease the burden for California businessmen who wish to start up in the “green revolution.”

One cautionary note is that Holder doesn’t have the ability to make any policy permanent. With a new administration or a change in attitude, the federal prosecution for marijuana offenses could easily ramp up again. There’s no guarantee that the DoJ will stick to any particular path, and, in fact they have been criticized in the past for capricious changes in direction.

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