The White House and Justice Department officials are reportedly considering legal action against Colorado and Washington over the recent passing of ballot measures to legalize the recreational use of marijuana.
On November 6, voters in Colorado and Washington became the first states to make it legal to smoke pot recreationally, without a prescription or medical reason.
Colorado’s law does not take effect until January 5 of next year. It will also be a full month before the measures are entered on to the books, and even longer before state officials write up the range of rules, regulations and tax codes for new state-licensed retail marijuana shops.
But the White House and the Justice Department are not amused.
In a statement on Wednesday, a spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Agency said the Justice Department was reviewing the ballot measures and that the agency’s enforcement of federal drug laws “remains unchanged.”
Marijuana use in both Colorado and Washington continues to be illegal under the Federal Controlled Substances Act, and puts their recent voter-initiatives in direct conflict with Federal law which views marijuana as a Schedule I Prohibited Substance.
The White House has recently been holding high-level meetings to debate their response to the decriminalization efforts. One legal option would be to sue both states on the grounds that their ballot measures are contrary to federal law.
If the Justice Department wins that fight it could open a Pandora’s box of debate about whether voters in states have the right to push for laws in contravention of Federal law.
The New York Timesreports that some law enforcement officials want Obama and the Justice Department to take a tough line on this issue. But, equally, it’s believed the President may not want to alienate many Liberal Democrats who support decriminalization as far as recreational marijuana use goes.
“It’s a sticky wicket for Obama,” said Bruce Buchanan, a political science professor at the University of Texas at Austin.
The New York Timessays it spoke to Federal officials on the condition of anonymity. Several admitted the issues has raised “complex legal and policy considerations,including enforcement priorities, litigation strategy and the impact of international anti-drug treaties.”
For now it seems, a decision about the challenge from Colorado and Washington, is still being deliberated. The Obama administration has declined to comment other then referring to the statement the Justice Department issued on Wednesday — the day before the initiative took effect in Washington.
Yesterday, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa toldHuffington Post Live’s Jacob Soboroff, that he does not support the full legalization of marijuana in California.
Los Angeles has continued to struggle with California’s medical marijuana legalization, even after medical marijuana supporters gathered 50,000 signatures to force a referendum on the ban.