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Border & Immigration

Federal Prosecutors Told Not To Focus On Marijuana Users

Federal prosecutors are being told by Attorney Gen. Eric Holder to focus on cartels, criminal enterprises and those who sell the drug to children, not on casual marijuana users, a Justice Department official tells NPR's Carrie Johnson.

Holder today informed the governors of Washington and Colorado — two states that recently legalized the sale of marijuana for personal use — about the new guidelines for prosecutors, the official adds.

Bu the new guidelines will apply to all states, not just Washington, Colorado and those where "medical marijuana" is legal.


"Based on assurances that those states will impose an appropriately strict regulatory system, the Department has informed the governors of both states that it is deferring its right to challenge their legalization laws at this time," Justice said in a statement.

Thursday's news comes the same week that Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said he would call Holder to Capitol Hill to spell out how the Justice Department would handle marijuana offenses in states that have legalized small amounts of the drug.

Earlier this month, Holder spelled out the Obama administration's objections to "draconian mandatory minimum sentences" for non-violent offenders -- many of whom would include drug users.

Update at 1:58 p.m. ET. The Memo:

The Justice Department has posted its memo to U.S. Attorneys (pdf). In it, the department lays out what it is concerned about. Among other things, it is prioritizing preventing the distribution of marijuana to minors, preventing the transfer of pot to states where it's not legal and preventing pot from being used as a "cover or pretext for the trafficking of other illegal drugs or other illegal activity."


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