Last night, marijuana smokers in Washington state celebrated in public, as that state’s legalization went into effect.
But state officials in Washington and Colorado are warning people to be cautious. While state law allows (or will allow) marijuana, federal law is another story. And for college campuses, there are federal laws that link federal grants to policing marijuana, so it’s going to be an issue for college campus police.
Legalization advocates are not convinced the feds will be actively pursuing marijuana cases, but that remains to be seen. We may not have a clear picture on the direction of the feds for a while so in the meantime, celebrate with caution.
In a new HuffPost poll, most Americans want the federal government to state out of Washington state’s and Colorado’s way:
Fifty-one percent of Americans in the new HuffPost/YouGov poll said that in the two states that have legalized marijuana use for adults, the federal government should exempt any adults following state laws from federal drug law enforcement. Only 30 percent said the federal government should enforce its drug laws in those states in the same way it does in any other state.
Marijuana use in both states continues to be illegal under the federal Controlled Substances Act. One option is to sue the states on the grounds that any effort to regulate marijuana is pre-empted by federal law. Should the Justice Department prevail, it would raise the possibility of striking down the entire initiatives on the theory that voters would not have approved legalizing the drug without tight regulations and licensing similar to controls on hard alcohol.
Some law enforcement officials, alarmed at the prospect that marijuana users in both states could get used to flouting federal law openly, are said to be pushing for a stern response. But such a response would raise political complications for President Obamabecause marijuana legalization is popular among liberal Democrats who just turned out to re-elect him.
Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes encouraged celebrants to enjoy their highs inside closed doors.”I think that they should acknowledge this newfound right,” he told NPR station KUOW. “I think they should celebrate in the privacy of their homes if they choose to do so. And be thankful that we’re no longer arresting some 10,000 Washingtonians a year in the state of Washington and spending well over $100 million in law enforcement resources on that.”
In Colorado, a measuring legalizing marijuana use and possession for those over 21 will go into effect next month. But one place where federal laws will have an impact: college campuses.
“In order not to lose federal funds, we need to comply with federal law,” University of Colorado at Boulder spokeswoman Malinda Hiller-Huey told The Denver Post.