Pubdate: Fri, 17 Oct 2014
Source: Los Angeles Times (CA)
Copyright: 2014 Los Angeles Times
Author: Timothy M. Phelps
Page: AA3


California should strengthen its regulation of the medical marijuana 
industry if the state wants to avoid federal intervention, U.S. 
Deputy Atty. Gen. James M. Cole said in an interview with The Times.

Cole, who announced Thursday that he is leaving the No. 2 job at the 
Justice Department, said he was proud of his efforts to take a softer 
approach to enforcing federal marijuana laws. A year ago, Cole sent a 
memo to all U.S. attorneys, including several in California who had 
aggressively targeted medical marijuana facilities, telling them to 
ease up on marijuana prosecutions in states where it was legal.

But in the interview Thursday, Cole said that states should still 
have a strong regulatory system in place for the use and sale of 
marijuana, something he said California lacks. "If you don't want us 
prosecuting [marijuana users] in your state, then get your regulatory 
act together," he said. Cole added that California must do a better 
job of stopping marijuana growth on federal lands.

Unlike most other states that have legalized marijuana in some form, 
California has no statewide regulatory regimen, leaving counties and 
cities to create a hodgepodge of rules and protections. Attempts to 
get marijuana regulation through the state Legislature have failed, 
but activists are hoping to get an initiative on the 2016 ballot.

The impending departure of Cole, who for nearly four years has been 
the day-to-day boss of the department, adds to a growing leadership 
vacuum at the federal government's top law enforcement agency.

Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. announced last month that he would 
leave as soon as a successor is confirmed, though the Obama 
administration has so far not announced a replacement.

At least half a dozen other top positions at the Justice Department, 
including the associate attorney general, the No. 3 job, are 
currently filled with acting appointees.

Cole said he was proud of his initiation of a project to encourage 
nonviolent prisoners serving long drug sentences to apply for a 
presidential commutation, and of the prosecution of Credit Suisse 
Bank and individual Swiss bankers for helping U.S. citizens evade taxes.

He also has been closely involved in Holder's "smart on crime" 
initiative to reduce the prison population and the large proportion 
of African Americans in federal prisons.
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