WASHINGTON - U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder announced what the federal government's position will be in reaction to Colorado and Washington state legalizing recreational use of marijuana during the last election cycle.
The federal government says it will not sue to stop the states of Colorado and Washington from allowing recreational marijuana use.
Many politicians started the respond to the sweeping national policy announcement:
COLORADO ATTORNEY GENERAL JOHN W. SUTHERS:
"The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) contacted Governor John Hickenlooper and me this morning to inform us of the position they are taking with regard to Colorado having legalized marijuana at the state level. The position taken by DOJ is very much along the lines I anticipated and I remain mystified as to why it took so long to articulate it. Clarification of the federal position, however, is nevertheless welcome. Colorado state government will continue to develop a regulatory scheme that is as effective as possible under the dictates of Amendment 64 with recognition that the federal government will take action if the state regulatory scheme does not deter activity that runs afoul of federal enforcement priorities. The eight criteria set forth for future federal prosecutions of marijuana in Colorado will give state and local law enforcement officials a basis for discussion with federal law enforcement officials about prosecuting those who abuse Colorado's marijuana regulatory system."
GOVERNOR JOHN HICKENLOOPER
"We recognize how difficult this issue has been for the Department of Justice and we appreciate the thoughtful approach it has taken. Amendment 64 put Colorado in conflict with federal law. Today's announcement shows the federal government is respecting the will of Colorado voters. We share with the federal government its priorities going forward. We are working to improve education and prevention efforts directed at young people and on enforcement tools to prevent access to marijuana by those under 21 years of age. We are also determined to keep marijuana businesses from being fronts for criminal enterprises or other illegal activity, and we are committed to preventing the exportation of marijuana out of Colorado while also enhancing efforts to keep state roads safer from impaired drivers."
CONGRESSMAN JARED POLIS
"I am thrilled Attorney General Eric Holder and the Department of Justice are allowing Colorado and Washington to regulate their own state laws regarding recreational and medicinal marijuana. This is a big step in allowing small businesses to grow and succeed while following state and federal laws. I am hopeful that other states may see marijuana regulation as an opportunity to reduce crime, combat drug abuse, and enhance economic opportunity. I fully support the eight priorities outlined by Attorney General Holder including prosecution for marijuana distribution to minors and protecting motorists from drugged drivers. This new sensible approach by the federal government will make all of us safer and respect the rights of states to determine how best to regulate marijuana within their borders."
CONGRESSMAN ED PERLMUTTER
"This guidance provides more clarification about how and when federal law enforcement officials will use resources to enforce violations of federal laws governing the possession, sale and use of marijuana in states, like Colorado, where it is legal and regulated. However, this memo does not address the conflicts that still remain between federal and state laws governing access to banking and financial services."
We need to address the public safety, crime and lost tax revenue associated when these legal and regulated businesses are operating in a cash-only system. We need to provide financial institutions certainty they can make their own business decisions related to legal, financial transactions without fear of regulatory penalties.
Currently, under federal banking laws, many legal, regulated legitimate marijuana businesses operating legally according to state law are prevented from maintaining bank accounts and accessing financial products like any other business such as accepting credit cards, depositing revenues, or writing checks to meet payroll or pay taxes. They are forced to operate as cash-only enterprises, inviting crime such as robbery and tax evasion only adding to the burden of setting up a legitimate small business.
My Marijuana Businesses Access to Banking Act (HR 2652) would allow banks, credit unions and other depository institutions the legal clearance to provide banking services to a marijuana-related legitimate business, ensuring these businesses do not have to operate on a cash-only basis. It has bipartisan support, and I urge Congressional leaders to promptly move this bill forward to a vote."
COLORADO STATE REPRESENTATIVE DIANA DEGETTE
"I applaud the Department of Justice today for issuing a policy on marijuana enforcement that honors the will of the voters of the state of Colorado. This policy enables cities and states to proceed with establishing strong regulatory frameworks that enable the legalization of marijuana, while protecting citizens and securing public safety.
"However I still believe strongly this policy should be made permanent with the passage of the bipartisan 'Respect States' and Citizens' Rights Act,' which would protect states' rights by preventing pre-emption by the federal government. While today's announcement goes a long way towards meeting the goals of my legislation, it is still a non-binding policy. Last November my constituents made their will known by voting for the legalization of marijuana in our state, and I must continue to fight to protect their rights and ensure no punitive steps can be taken that undermine the will of our citizens."
In last November's elections, voters in Colorado and Washington State passed state laws legalizing marijuana by wide margins. Several lawmakers expressed concern soon after about the federal government's ability to override these voter-approved initiatives and the states' rights to exercise the will of their citizens. The "Respect States' and Citizens' Rights Act"
(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)