Justice Department agrees to tolerate marijuana reforms, while DEA drags its feet

iStock_000013348762_ExtraSmall.jpgWhile federal law prohibiting marijuana remains unaffected, the Department of Justice recently announced it would not take legal action to stop the implementation of state recreational or medical marijuana laws. The announcement came in the form a guidance memo to federal prosecutors from James M. Cole, the deputy attorney general of the US. The memo directed U.S. Attorneys to refrain from making a state-legal marijuana business a priority if the business follows the state’s regulations and state law fulfills eight federal goals. These goals include preventing marijuana distribution to minors, prohibiting driving under marijuana’s influence, and stopping the profits from marijuana sales from benefiting criminal actors.

This announcement may highlight a major shift in federal drug policy, which for the last four decades has been extremely inflexible on modernizing drug laws and penalties. Another announcement underscoring a possible change in federal policy was Attorney General Eric Holder’s recent statement that federal prosecutors shall no longer seek federal mandatory minimum sentences for certain low-level nonviolent drug offenders. However, amidst indications from the Justice Department of taking sensible approaches to drug policy, another federal agency resists to modernizing marijuana law enforcement. Less than two weeks after Holder’s statement, the Drug Enforcement Agency ordered all security and armored vehicle companies to stop servicing state-legal marijuana businesses. Because of the DEA’s order, state-legal marijuana businesses could be put in mortal danger when transporting their products and earnings.

Nonetheless, recent federal action on state marijuana reforms seems to be more tolerant than hostile. In addition to changing mandatory minimum sentencing for low-level drug offenders and taking a hands-off approach to state marijuana reforms, the Justice Department has also made it easier for financial institutions and other enterprises to do business with marijuana establishments. The US Attorney General explained to the governors of Colorado and Washington that so long as banks and other enterprises are complying with state laws, they are unlikely to be prosecuted for money laundering or other federal crimes that could theoretically apply. The Justice Department’s new approach is a reversal on the DEA’s longstanding policy prohibiting financial institutions and other enterprises from dealing with state-legal marijuana businesses.

The federal shift towards marijuana tolerance comes weeks before a senate hearing set to examine the federal response to marijuana legalization by US states. The hearing will be convened by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt). When Senator Leahy announced his plans to hold the hearing, he wished for the federal government to allow the Colorado and Washington implementations on marijuana legalization to proceed. That wish seems to be fulfilled. But a formal agreement between states and the federal government regarding marijuana would be preferred by states rather than simple guidance to deprioritize state-legal federal marijuana prosecutions. Better yet, reforming federal law itself would be the best solution to allow for science and reason to determine the classification of marijuana rather than tolerating the outdated hysteria that is keeping marijuana federally illegal.

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Gilbert Garcia has been Passionately Pursuing Justice for over 30 years and founded The Gilbert G. Garcia Law Firm in 2008. The Gilbert G. Garcia Law Firm is a boutique law firm, specializing in Criminal Defense. Gilbert represents adults and juveniles accused of a crime and who have with a felony, misdemeanor or record cleaning case. Conveniently located on the courthouse square to serve Montgomery and Walker Counties. Gilbert became Board Certified in Criminal Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization in 1989. The Gilbert G. Garcia Law Firm is located at 220 N. Thompson St., Suite 202, Conroe, TX 77301.  www.ggglawfirm.com.

Drug Related Charges may include: Possession of Marijuana, Possession of Controlled Substance, Possession of Dangerous Drug, Manufacturing a Dangerous Drug/Controlled Substance, Delivery or Intent to Deliver Marijuana/Dangerous Drug/Controlled Substance, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia and many other drug related charges.