October 20 2009, 11:13 AM
People who use marijuana as a drug for medicinal reasons, or distribute it through dispensaries, should not face federal prosecution so long as they follow their state's laws, the Justice Department ruled Monday, representing a shift away from the policy of the Bush administration in a directive that The New York Times reckons has "far-reaching political and legal implications." The new position isn't an outright endorsement by the Obama administration of medical marijuana, but it is a signal that prosecutors should focus on what they consider higher priorities. While Obama's stand might be seen as somewhat conservative--because it emphasizes that each of the 14 states in which medical marijuana is legal (including Colorado) form its own policy---Colorado Attorney General John Suthers wants to tackle exactly that question. He thinks state officials need to draft new rules on how medical marijuana is grown and distributed, writes The Denver Post. But it doesn't appear Democratic lawmakers will make the issue a priority when the Legislature convenes in January for the 2010 session. "The people of Colorado have clearly spoken on this issue and have decided that medicinal uses of marijuana are appropriate and legal in Colorado," says state House Speaker Terrance Carroll (pictured), a Democrat from Denver. It's not clear how many dispensaries there are in the region, but if Denver is anything like San Francisco, there could be more here than Starbucks. That's according to a claim by the Office of National Drug Control Policy, although critics in California say the numbers just don't add up (via the San Francisco Chronicle).