Journal of the San Juan Islands


Prosecutor applauds feds 'hands-off' policy on state pot laws

September 1, 2013 · Updated 8:37 PM

Randy Gaylord / Contributed file photo

Prosecutor Attorney Randy Gaylord responded approvingly to a “guidance memorandum” issued Aug. 29 by Deputy Attorney General James Cole to all U.S. attorneys regarding enforcement of federal drug laws in states that have enacted legalization initiatives and “medical marijuana” laws.

That memorandum, and two earlier memoranda in 2009 and 2011, reminds U.S. attorneys, including Washington U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan, to use “limited investigative and prosecutorial resources to address the most significant threats in the most effective, consistent and rational way.”

That is being interpreted to mean that federal authorities will not prosecute consumption and possession of marijuana in small amounts under state legalization and medical marijuana laws.

The DOJ memorandum qualifies its hands-off policy with the requirement that states and local governments must have “strong and effective regulatory and enforcement systems” to assure that the eight federal priorities in the memorandum are followed.

Gaylord’s statement about the Department of Justice guidelines cautioned, “Only some marijuana activities have been legalized. It remains illegal for minors to possess or consume marijuana or for adults to provide marijuana to minors… [or] to drive a motor vehicle while under the influence of any drug.”


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