Politics: Justice Department Will Decide on Colorado-Washington Pro-Pot Measures "Relatively Soon"

Attorney General Eric Holder wouldn't give a timetable for a decision as several former DEA chiefs this week urged him to challenge the two states' new laws.
March 11 2013, 1:30 PM

A policy decision on how the federal government will handle legalized-marijuana measures in Colorado and Washington will be made “relatively soon,” United States Attorney General Eric Holder said last week.

Holder told members of the U.S. Senate’s Judiciary Committee he’s had productive conversations from representatives from both states, but didn’t give a timetable on an official decision from the Justice Department on whether to challenge the two new voter-approved laws. Already, President Barack Obama has said recreational marijuana users in Colorado and Washington shouldn’t be a top priority for federal law enforcement officials.

Voters here approved Amendment 64 this past fall, which allows adults 21 and older to have up to an ounce of marijuana and grow as many as six marijuana plants. The Washington measure, which also passed last year, is similar. But federal law lists marijuana as a “Schedule-I” narcotic, which is punishable by fines and jail time. If the Justice Department decides federal law should supersede the state measures, it could sue both Colorado and Washington and attempt to block the measures.

Recently, eight former U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration heads urged Holder to nix the state laws and said the Justice Department is dragging its feet on the issue. "My fear is that the Justice Department will do what they are doing now: do nothing and say nothing," former DEA administrator Peter Bensinger told The Associated Press. "If they don't act now, these laws will be fully implemented in a matter of months."

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