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Will Obama Go After Legal Pot in Washington and Colorado?

A near supermajority of American citizens believes the federal government ought to respect the states' new laws.

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“No one can argue that the federal government’s ability to enforce the CSA is impaired to the slightest degree [by Arizona’s medical marijuana law],” he opined. “Instead of frustrating the CSA’s purpose, it is sensible to argue that the [law] furthers the CSA’s objectives in combating drug abuse and the illegitimate trafficking of controlled substances.”

In short, it may be argued that the enactment of limited legalization in Colorado and Washington will not signal the beginning of a ramped-up federal drug war, but instead will usher in the beginning of the end of federal cannabis prohibition. Like alcohol prohibition before it, the criminalization of cannabis is a failed federal policy that delegates the burden of enforcement to the state and local police. How did America’s "noble experiment" with alcohol prohibition come to an end? When a sufficient number of states enacted legislation repealing the state’s alcohol laws, prohibition effectively discontinued. With state police and prosecutors no longer enforcing the federal government’s unpopular law, politicians eventually had no choice but to abandon the policy altogether. 

Is history repeating itself? Time will tell.

Paul Armentano is the deputy director of NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws) and the co-author of Marijuana Is Safer: So Why Are We Driving People to Drink (Chelsea Green, 2009).


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