Marijuana, a plant that the United States government has spent billions of dollars suppressing, and that people have spent untold years imprisoned for possessing, will soon be legal to consume in Colorado and Washington. Last night voters of both those states voted overwhelmingly to legalize the substance for recreational use (Massachusetts also legalized medical marijuana, Oregon, Montana and Arkansas fell short). Too bad the man we just reelected has presided over a crackdown on existing state medical marijuana laws across the country.
A spokesman for the DEA told Reason that "the Drug Enforcement Administration’s enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act remains unchanged," referring to the law that groups marijuana—a substance that is inherently safer to use than the product advertised with a bullet train of drunk people perilously careening through snowy mountainous territory—with heroin, peyote, and GHB.
Economists and plenty of former law enforcement officers agree that the war on drugs, particularly the criminalization of marijuana, is a senseless waste of time and money and disproportionally affects people of color. But the Obama administration is content with raiding legal marijuana dispensaries and arresting small business owners. Ask him about it and he laughs.
There is a glimmer of hope that things may be different this time. The Seattle Times reports:
Many legal experts expect the U.S. Justice Department, which remained silent during presidential-year politics, to push back and perhaps sue to block I-502 based on federal supremacy. But Seattle City Attorney Pete Holmes said Seattle's U.S. Attorney Jenny Durkan told him Tuesday the federal government "has no plans, except to talk."
Colorado's governor, a Democrat and opponent of the bill in his state, which would allow residents to grow up to six of their own marijuana plants, said this:
The voters have spoken and we have to respect their will. This will be a complicated process, but we intend to follow through. That said, federal law still says marijuana is an illegal drug so don't break out the Cheetos or gold fish too quickly.
Colorado's law only goes into effect when the election results are certified, which could take several months, and the first dispensaries are scheduled to appear in 2014. But in Washington, the law takes effect on December 6th. Will the president side with the American people, or alcohol companies, private prisons, pharmaceutical companies, and police and prison guard lobbies?