Feds respect state marijuana initiative

September 10, 2013

By Peter Clark

After almost a year of speculation, the United States Department of Justice has decided to defer to Initiative 502.

Though it maintains that marijuana remains an illegal drug under the Controlled Substances Act and federal prosecutors will continue to aggressively enforce the statute, the Department of Justice announced Aug. 29 that it would respect states that have legalized its recreational use in the 2012 election. However, it clearly stated that enforcement and regulation must remain a top priority.

“For states such as Colorado and Washington that have enacted laws to authorize the production, distribution and possession of marijuana, the department expects these states to establish strict regulatory schemes that protect the eight federal interests identified in the department’s guidance,” the press release reads. “These schemes must be tough in practice, not just on paper, and include strong, state-based enforcement efforts, backed by adequate funding.”

Furthermore, the Department of Justice warned that should state-run regulatory schemes damage “federal interests” then “federal prosecutors will act aggressively to bring individual prosecutions focused on federal enforcement priorities and the department may challenge the regulatory scheme themselves in these states.”

The announcement arrived nearly a year after Washington voters enacted the legalization of recreational marijuana, which ran counter to federal law. As state administrators have pieced together a system and guidelines for production and distribution, concern over the federal government reaction had cast a shadow over proceedings.

Because it was a state and federal matter, the decision had little impact on local expectation for zoning or enforcement.

“It won’t affect us very much,” Police Chief Paul Ayers said, indicating that the department worked within state guidelines.

City Communications Manager Autumn Monahan said that the federal decision would not have great affect on planning for recreational marijuana distribution.

“I’m not aware that the Department of Justice letter will have much of a direct impact on Issaquah’s proposed regulations for recreational marijuana facilities,” she said.


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