Pubdate: Wed, 05 Feb 2014
Source: New Haven Register (CT)
Copyright: 2014 New Haven Register
Note: Editorial courtesy of Bloomberg View,


Twenty states plus the District of Columbia now allow sales of
medicinal marijuana, allowing pot prescriptions to treat pretty much
any malady, from a headache to a hangnail.

Why should Holder decide which federal statutes to enforce and which
to ignore? Colorado and Washington have legalized the drug for
recreational use, too. Yet federal law still prohibits the possession,
use and sale of marijuana for any reason. This dichotomy explains why
some banks are reluctant to accept the large amounts of cash that pot
purveyors generate - even if the cash is legal under state law.

To redress this, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has promised to
issue guidelines to make it easier for marijuana sellers who are
operating in accordance with their state laws to use the banking
system. Large amounts of cash "just kind of lying around with no place
for it to be appropriately deposited," Holder mused, "is something
that would worry me, from a law enforcement perspective."

The fact is, Holder encouraged those bundles of unbanked cash to be
assembled in the first place.

Last year, perhaps in a nod to opinion polls showing that a majority
of Americans favor marijuana legalization, he said the Justice
Department wouldn't seek to overturn the Colorado and Washington measures.

Nor, he said, would Washington interfere with the 20 states that allow
medicinal marijuana. Instead, federal drug agencies and prosecutors
would leave it to local authorities to enforce marijuana laws.

All of which raises the question: When did it become acceptable for
the country's top law-enforcement officer to decide which federal
statutes to enforce and which to ignore? Even those who agree with the
broader policy of marijuana legalization should be left uneasy by open
defiance of the rule of law.

Under the 1970 Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is classified as a
Schedule 1 drug, which means it has high potential for abuse, serves
no medical purpose and isn't safe even under a doctor's supervision.
As recently as 2005, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that, even in states
that allow medical marijuana sales, sellers and users can be prosecuted.

Whether or not a law is outmoded, unpopular or overtaken by cultural
change, the attorney general doesn't have the authority to ignore it
altogether in half the country. To do so is wrong, and has practical
consequences: Holder's pronouncement caused a surge of cash to flow
from the blackmarket weed business into the regular economy. 
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