Since Washington and Colorado became the first states to legalize the sale and possession of marijuana in November, there has been lots of speculation regarding the federal response to the new laws. The Department of Justice has always taken a hard line stance against marijuana, including the legal medical marijuana industry. But, a glimmer of hope emerged not long after the initiatives passed, when President Barack Obama said the federal government had “bigger fish to fry” than pursue legalized marijuana. As it turns out, Obama has stuck to his word.

On Thursday, Attorney General Eric Holder informed governors of Washington and Colorado that the Department of Justice would allow the states to implement all aspects of their respective initiatives. According to one Justice Department spokesperson, the DOJ is taking a “trust and verify approach” to both states, and their approach to regulation. In addition, the DOJ outlined eight priorities for federal prosecutors in both states:

  • the distribution of marijuana to minors;
  • revenue from the sale of marijuana from going to criminal enterprises, gangs and cartels;
  • the diversion of marijuana from states where it is legal under state law in some form to other states;
  • state-authorized marijuana activity from being used as a cover or pretext for the trafficking of other illegal drugs or other illegal activity;
  • violence and the use of firearms in the cultivation and distribution of marijuana
  • drugged driving and the exacerbation of other adverse public health consequences associated with marijuana use;
  • growing of marijuana on public lands and the attendant public safety and environmental dangers posed by marijuana production on public lands;
  • preventing marijuana possession or use on federal property.

In other words, the Feds are letting Washingtonians and Coloradans (is that what they’re called? I don’t know) do their thing, as long they don’t catch you doing anything stupid, like transporting legal Evergreen State bud to Oregon and showing it off to all your poor friends who don’t have legalized weed.