US Department of Justice to Allow States Medical and Recreational Marijuana

The Federal Government has finally made the first of what is sure to be many more steps toward legalizing recreational marijuana in the United States.  Thursday, August 28, 2013, the Justice Department made an announcement, they will not sue Washington state or Colorado in order to uphold the previous federal ban on marijuana in this country.  Critics have said that Attorney General Eric Holder, who commissioned an examination of then current marijuana policy last year, is going against 75 years of federal policy and, ostensibly, breaking the law (CA Health and Safety Code 11357). Of course, those folks are members of organizations like the Drug Enforcement Agency and it is certain that they are now worried about job security in the new climate.

What does this mean for residents of Washington and Colorado, and the rest of the country in general?  For one thing, anyone 21 years of age or older, whether they’re a resident or not, will be able to buy recreational marijuana in stores in Washington, most likely by early next year. Colorado is already better set for marijuana retail outlets, as their policy will allow current facilities to be converted to regular stores. There are, of course, a few caveats.

The federal guidelines require that retailers obtain a state license, not participate in other illegal activities or use the stores as a front for gang activity, remain a safe distance from schools and other places where children congregate, keep to certain regulations about advertising, keep it away from federal land, and not distribute to states where marijuana is still illegal.  Additionally, sales will be limited to “usable” product and infused items, and only in certain amounts.

Basically, the rules will be pretty much the same as they are for alcohol and tobacco.  You can still get a DUI for driving under the influence of marijuana (CA Penal Code 23152(a)) (except now police will measure the nanograms of THC in your blood instead of the alcohol percentage), and there are provisions for just about everything else, from store locations to amounts that can be purchased by a single person in a single transaction.

All in all, however, this movement makes large strides toward legalization.  The catch?  There will be a 25% government tax on each phase of the process (grower to distributor, distributor to retail outlet, retail outlet to consumer).  For those who have been arguing for years that the federal government should legalize marijuana and then tax it, your wish has been granted.