Pubdate: Fri, 30 Aug 2013
Source: Columbus Dispatch (OH)
Copyright: 2013 The Columbus Dispatch
Author: Rob Hotakainen, McClatchy Newspapers
Page: 3


WASHINGTON - In a ruling that gives new momentum to the national push
to legalize marijuana, the U.S. Justice Department said yesterday that
it would not interfere with plans by the states of Washington and
Colorado to sell and tax pot for recreational use beginning next year.

The department made its long-awaited announcement in a memo released
to federal prosecutors.

Attorney General Eric Holder had been under growing pressure to
respond to the new state laws, since marijuana still is classified as
an illegal drug under federal law.

While opponents wanted Holder to sue the states to block them from
selling a banned substance, the Justice Department said it won't
bother, as long as the states police themselves well.

"Based on assurances that those states will impose an appropriately
strict regulatory system, the department has informed the governors of
both states that it is deferring its right to challenge their
legalization laws at this time," the department said in its

Advocates of legalization cheered the move, calling it a historic step
toward ending marijuana prohibition across the United States.

Washington and Colorado in November were the first to approve
marijuana for recreational use.

Twenty states - with California going first in 1996 - have approved
medical-marijuana sales. Others are expected to vote soon on
recreational marijuana, including Alaska in 2014 and California in
2016, lobbyists predict.

"This is the most-heartening news to come out of Washington in a long,
long time," said Neill Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement
Against Prohibition, a group of law-enforcement officials opposed to
the war on drugs.

Holder displayed "inspired leadership" by allowing the two states to
proceed, Franklin said. "The message to the people of the other 48
states, to all who value personal freedom and responsible regulation,
is clear: Seize the day."

Opponents of legalization said the move would have negative

"We can look forward to more drugged-driving accidents, more school
dropouts and poorer health outcomes as a new big marijuana industry
targeting kids and minorities emerges to fuel the flames," said
Patrick Kennedy, a former Democratic congressman from Rhode Island and
co-founder of Project SAM (Smart Approaches to Marijuana), a national
alliance that opposes legalization.
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