Jacob Sullum Asks Whether We Really Can Expect the Feds to Tolerate Marijuana Legalization


At the end of August, nearly 10 months after voters in Colorado and Washington decided to legalize marijuana, the U.S. Justice Department finally responded. Its announcement, which took the form of a memo to U.S. attorneys from Deputy Attorney General James Cole, promised neither acceptance nor confrontation, saying only that the Justice Department probably has better things to do than prosecute newly legal marijuana growers and sellers, provided state regulation is strict enough to allay federal concerns. This conditional forbearance was widely interpreted as a "green light" for legalization. But Senior Editor Jacob Sullum says anyone familiar with the Obama administration's inconsistent, disingenuous approach to medical marijuana has to wonder whether the Cole memo truly signals a newfound respect for state policy choices.