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U.S. Justice Deparment Won’t Block State Marijuana Legalization

The United States Justice Department will not challenge state initiatives in Washington and Colorado that permit the recreational use of marijuana.

Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole sent a memo Thursday to all U.S. attorneys issuing guidance on how to proceed given the new state regulations. The question has hung over prosecutors for the last ten months since voters in the two western states approved ballot initiatives that legalize the use and sale of small amounts of marijuana.

The memo basically states the federal government does not consider prosecuting the personal use of small amounts of marijuana a priority. The Justice Department will not act against the states of Washington and Colorado as long as they thoroughly regulate the use of marijuana and ensure it is not a threat to public safety.

Cole writes the Justice Department will continue to enforce the Controlled Substance Act. He writes that among the priorities of the federal government is to prevent the distribution of marijuana to minors and organized crime.

Along the U.S.-Mexico border, some county governments have stopped prosecuting cases of individual marijuana possession for financial reasons. They simply can't afford the cost of prosecuting those cases.

The Center for Investigative Reporting writes that due to budget constraints, the Justice Department is no longer reimbursing local border governments at the rate that they used to for going after minor drug offenses.

El Paso district attorney Jaime Esparza told CIR, "Some of the poorest counties in the country are shouldering the federal government's efforts against drug trafficking. If they don't want to pay us, we're not going to do that work. It's getting to that point now."

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