Activists React to New Marijuana Rules

Yes We Cannabis
(Poster art by Sonia Sanchez)

By allowing the votes in Colorado and Washington legalizing marijuana to move full steam ahead, the Department of Justice has opened the door for the other 48 states.

As Jessica Yellin said on CNN: "More weed is coming to states near you."

On Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder assured the governors in those states that the federal government would not stand in their way, as long as they follow a few basic rules outlined in a memo issued by Deputy AG James Cole, such as no sale to minors.

"Today's announcement demonstrates the sort of vision and foresight from the White House we've been seeking for a long time," hailed Ethan Nadelman of New York's Drug Policy Alliance. "I must admit, I was expecting a yellow light from the White House. But this light looks a lot more greenish than I had hoped. The White House is basically saying to Washington and Colorado: Proceed with caution."

In Washington, Dan Riffle of the Marijuana Policy Project, lauded the DOJ's announcement as "a major and historic step toward ending marijuana prohibition. The Department of Justice's decision to allow implementation of the laws in Colorado and Washington is a clear sign that states are free to determine their own policies with respect to marijuana."

NORML's Eric Altieri echoed Riffle. "This is historic step forward," he agreed. "Assuming the Department of Justice stays true to their word, these states and others will no doubt move forward with the state-licensed regulation of cannabis for adults."

The "others" he's referring to are the 20 states (and the District of Columbia) where medical marijuana is legal. Speaking for the medical cannabis community in California, ASA's Steph Sherer reminded that the DOJ has made similar promises in the past.

"The memo by James Cole outlines the criteria that the DOJ will use in deciding when to enforce federal law against cannabis activity in Washington and Colorado, where voters have legalized its non-medical use. Sound familiar?" Sherer asked in a press release. "This memo is similar to a memo by Cole published in 2009. The fact that the DOJ is suggesting that some activity which is legal under state law may not be an enforcement priority is a big step forward. Of course, we should be cautious. Federal enforcement escalated after Cole published his memo on medical cannabis."

The Marijuana Majority's Tom Angell added skeptically: "It remains to be seen how individual U.S. attorneys will interpret the new guidance and whether they will continue their efforts to close down marijuana businesses that are operating in accordance with state law... The guidelines seem to leave some leeway for the Feds to continue making it hard for state-legal marijuana providers to do business."

What do you think?

Steve Bloom

Steve Bloom

Publisher of, former editor of High Times and Freedom Leaf and co-author of Pot Culture and Reefer Movie Madness.