Less than a month ago, citizens in several cities voted to legalize recreational marijuana possession. The voting results stand in sharp contrast to the raids carried out by federal agents in Colorado in recent weeks, however. Though the Obama Administration said it would be more hands-off in regards to marijuana policy just a few short months ago, their raids are a stark reminder that they want nothing to do with freeing up pot.
Portland, Maine and three cities in Michigan (Ferndale, Jackson, and Lansing) all voted to legalize recreational marijuana. In Portland, those over the age of 21 can possess 2.5 ounces, but are interestingly barred from the recreational purchasing of it. In the three Michigan cities, similar legislation was passed by voters.
These locales become the latest in shifting tides on marijuana policy. Nineteen states have approved medical marijuana and two (CO and WA) have approved recreational marijuana.
Popular opinion on marijuana laws has officially shifted. A recent Gallup poll indicated majority support (58%) for legalization of marijuana for the first time ever.
But all of this change is in direct contrast with federal laws, which view marijuana as both highly addictive and dangerous. A few months back, the Department of Justice issued a memo that they would back off states where recreational use had been legalized and would only interfere if things crossed one of eight certain thresholds. It was celebrated as a victory by marijuana advocates.
Last week, the DEA and law enforcement joined forces to execute more than one dozen raids in the Denver area, however, leaving people to question the DOJ’s word.
“Although we cannot at this time discuss the substance of this pending investigation, there are strong indications that more than one of the eight federal prosecution priorities identified in the Department of Justice’s August guidance memo are potentially implicated,” said a statement from a spokesman for John Walsh, the U.S. attorney in Colorado.
Those eight enforcement priorities include:
- Preventing marijuana from possession by minors
- Preventing it’s spread to states where it is illegal
- Preventing drugged driving
- Preventing growing marijuana on public lands
- Preventing marijuana possession and use on federal grounds
- Preventing the funding of criminal enterprises
- Preventing violence and firearms in the trade
- Preventing legal pot from being a cover for illegal trafficking
While we can celebrate the most recent moves towards legalization in Portland Maine and beyond, we must also be aware that the federal government isn’t giving up their failed and costly war on drugs quite yet.